Yesterday came the news that the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Patty Murray playing a leading role, was riding to the rescue of budget-bleeding states like Washington. The cavalry arrived, with maybe $500 million for Washington to help retain teachers and pay for Medicaid, just as the damsel in distress, the state budget, was about to be run over by a freight train. Sen. Murray glowed with pride.
All this puts her main challenger, Dino Rossi, in a spot. Since he has more conservative challengers to worry about in the primary, and Tea Party voters to assuage, he might be tempted to deplore Sen. Murray's moment of high porkiness. On the other hand, with all those voters not wanting to see teachers eliminated and other services cut (or fees raised), it's not going to do Rossi a lot of good with independent voters in November if he's on the record as being stony-hearted with his own state. Business interests also would be alarmed if they thought Sen. Rossi was going to Washington in order to derail the gravy train.
Rossi himself dodged questions, but his campaign put out this statement:
"This is a stopgap measure which temporarily bails out states, letting them put off making the same tough budget decisions Washington State families are making every day. The measure proposed by Sen. Murray contained a permanent tax increase to pay for temporary spending, in addition to cutting needed money from our men and women in uniform."
There is some artfulness in the statement, shifting the focus to tax increases (apparently closing a loophole on multinational corporations) and unwise cuts (ammunition for the Army, among other things). Wiser to cut teachers than ammo? And is it smart to keep the story alive, since it only serves to drive home how valuable Sen. Murray's high-ranking position in the Senate is for sending greenbacks to the Evergreen state.
The real art is in provoking Democrats into an orgy of attack on so obvious a political mistake by Rossi. Their overkill, along with possible "liberal media" frothing at the mouth, ought to solidify Dino's conservative base.
I read Dino's gambit, however, as a sign of his being worried about that base, and a mistake that will make it very hard for Rossi to tack back to the center and to woo independents in the general election. Far better to use that fine old August excuse about taking a few days vacation in the good weather. Sounds like Rossi is once again in thrall to national advisers tone-deaf to local realities and caught up in beltway bromides.