Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell’s name recognition and $4.5 million fundraising lead make the 2012 Washington Senate race hers to lose, analysts say.
Or, possibly, President Barack Obama’s.
The Aug. 7 primary election pits Cantwell, who is running for a third term, against mostly Republican candidates. The top two vote-getters will advance to November’s general election. Experts say the junior senator’s seat looks safe, but her success may be tied to the president’s approval rating.
“If Maria Cantwell ends up being vulnerable, then the Democrats have much bigger problems nationwide,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “The only way that this becomes a competitive race is if President Obama’s numbers crater.”
Obama is currently outpolling GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by double digits in Washington state, according to a June survey by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based Democratic firm. Fifty-four percent of voters surveyed said they would vote for Obama, while 41 percent said they would vote for Romney. The poll also showed Cantwell beating her closest rival, Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, 51 percent to 35 percent.
Cantwell campaign strategist Rose Kapolczynski said though her candidate has a strong lead, liberals will be less likely to vote in the November election if they see Obama as weak. That would mean fewer votes for Cantwell, too.
Kapolczynski is also concerned that national Republican strategists will take an interest in the Washington Senate race. As of March 31, Cantwell’s campaign had $4.6 million to spend, the Federal Election Commission reported. Baumgartner had only $144,000. But a funding boost from conservative Super PACs could make him a bigger threat.
“Because we can’t control those factors, we have to be prepared for the worst,” Kapolczynski said. “$5 million to (Republican strategist) Karl Rove is like the lint in his pocket.”
Right now, a major contribution from the likes of Rove seems unlikely, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. National Republicans are not paying attention to Washington’s Senate race. Even within the state, GOP leaders are preoccupied by the governor’s race, which is expected to be a close contest between Republican
You can read the rest of this article at: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/07/08/2208168/senate-incumbent-faces-tough-race.html