By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Columnist
Rumors that Dino Rossi would announce a run for the U.S. Senate on Monday had become too loud to ignore Friday, so I called him to find out.
“Hold on,” he said as he ordered a fish sandwich and a diet soda at a fast food drive-through in Everett.
Sustenance, I asked, for an afternoon strategy session for the big campaign? Nope, lunch before church, he said. It was Good Friday.
I promised to be brief, then broke my promise because, well, Rossi is engaging and if he does become the next U.S. senator he might change his phone number to block pestering calls like mine.
About the latest rumor of his pending declaration, he laughed and said he will be in Canada on Monday with his family for spring break.
What about the Monday following your return, I asked? No comment, though I’m sure he smiled.
“A whole lot of people have a whole lot of designs for my life,” he said. “I know I have to do it before 5 p.m. June 11.” That’s the deadline for candidates to file for the race.
Those people are in the national Republican and Democratic parties whose gazes are fixed on Rossi for the same reason: As the political world pivots today, he is the best-known Republican with the best chance of beating Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in the fall.
Two of three published polls done this year show Rossi and Murray statistically tied, with the third showing Murray comfortably, though not convincingly, ahead. Obviously two bruising gubernatorial setbacks did not undermine Rossi’s foundation of support.
Comparatively, each of the nearly dozen declared Republican challengers fails to register high enough in any poll to make the incumbent senator miss a breath.
It explains why the Republican Party flew Rossi to Washington, D.C., last month so those in the GOP brain trust could try to convince him to run.
“I’m still not saying no, and I’m still not saying yes,” Rossi said.
Seeing Dino Rossi wandering around the nation’s capital in the company of Republican leaders made Democrats’ knees bend.
That party’s strategists have parsed the public polls and compared them with their private surveys and know this could turn out bad, very bad, for Patty Murray if he runs.
Considering the mood of voters today is a bit sour toward those in charge in Washington, D.C., and the direction they are leading the country. Murray is one of the power brokers helping steer the nation.
Also consider Republicans are an enthusiastic bunch right now fueled by anger over issues such as health care and energized by the rebellious souls in the tea party movement.
In such conditions Murray’s vulnerability is real — not as real as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada or Sen. Barbara Boxer in California — but enough to make her friends alert.
That alertness quickly morphs into worry if Rossi is the opponent.
That’s why the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee went on the attack this week, launching a Web site of insinuations of shadiness about the company Rossi keeps and deals he’s made in the business world.
Most of the content is regurgitated from Democratic campaigns against Rossi in 2008.
The mission of the group, which Murray ran in 2002, is to elect Democrats to the Senate and re-elect those there now. By any means necessary.
Right now, it’s with psychological warfare. They want to scare Rossi out of the race before he gets in. They want him to know that he is in for a fierce and unrelenting battle unlike either of his bids for governor.
Rossi’s response: “It’s clear Patty Murray is terrified and desperate, and that’s sad.”
Actually, she’s not, but those paid to sustain the Democrat majority are nervous. They figure the best defense is a good offense and won’t stop unless Rossi decides not to get into the race.
Everyone will know the answer soon. Not Monday. That was a bad rumor.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623, firstname.lastname@example.org.