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Murray, Rossi spend millions in tightening Washington race

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By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 11:24 AM

SEATTLE - Drama has snowballed at the end of an otherwise rote, civil Senate race in Washington, which could be the state that delivers a Republican majority to the upper chamber.

Republican real estate businessman Dino Rossi, who narrowly lost bids for governor in 2004 and 2008 and was recruited by GOP leadership to run this year, is nipping at the heels of Democratic incumbent Patty Murray, a powerful earmarker since she won election in 1992 after branding herself as a "mom in tennis shoes."

Even if Republicans win Senate seats in safer states (such as North Dakota and Indiana) and in most toss-up states (such as Nevada and Illinois), it will be nearly impossible to claim a majority without Washington. Over the course last month, Murray's lead shrank from eight points to four, nearly within the margin of error of the latest Washington Poll, released Friday by the University of Washington.

The Rossi camp was so confident that it held a victory rally Monday - the day before mail-in ballots must be postmarked. Murray blitzed the state via bus over the weekend, with Spokane, Walla Walla and Olympia on a 12-town tear that ended with a concert Monday evening in Seattle.

Campaign ads have clogged TV and radio as millions of dollars of independent expenditures have poured into the state. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, a political action committee and nonprofit group co-founded by Karl Rove, have spent $2.6 million in advertising against Murray, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In the past month, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and former president Bill Clinton for Murray. The Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org Web site reports that Murray had raised $15.3 million and Rossi $7.6 million as of Oct. 13.

Rossi's Monday night party took place in the garage of campaign headquarters in Bellevue, an affluent, somewhat conservative suburb across Lake Washington from Seattle. Yes, there was exposed ductwork and drooping reams of insulation, but there was also a giant American flag, an excitable trio of women wearing "Rossi Posse" T-shirts, and a 91-year-old man from Issaquah wielding a brass bugle and a disdain for federal handouts.

"I remember in 1932 sitting at the breakfast table and my dad ranting about moving to Australia because FDR had just been elected," said Jack Steidl, a retired airline pilot who bugles for state honor guards and wore a Rossi button pinned to his black felt fedora. "He believed it was up to the individual to work hard and not spend his life collecting doles from the government. I guess I inherited that thinking, and Dino Rossi is the one to keep it up."

The front of the Rossi Posse's red T-shirts said "Re-Elect Dino Rossi," in reference to his controversial 129-vote loss in the 2004 gubernatorial race.

"As big government takes over, our voices become smaller," said Rossi Posse member and Tacoma resident Shelly Garofalo, 47, whose year-long unemployment prompted her to stump for a candidate who promised more jobs and less deficit. "Liberalism leads to socialism and socialism leads to communism."

"I think the last Republican-controlled Congress was out of control with spending, and what we have now is that on steroids," the candidate said after the rally, as the Rossi Posse circled and chirped, and MGMT's song "Time to Pretend" played over speakers.

Leave it to Seattle to attempt to pump up its Democratic base with the plaintive, numbing licks of Elliot Smith. A disco ball spun lazily in the purply, blacklit rafters of a concert venue called Neumo's in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood Monday night. Murray supporters mingled below to a soundtrack of indie rock and folk music.

"Dino Rossi couldn't be here tonight," announced King County executive Dow Constantine from the stage. "He's having a victory party in Bellevue. I'm glad he's having it tonight because he's not going to have the opportunity tomorrow."


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