WASHINGTON - The Washington state Senate race is going down to the wire, with a McClatchy-Marist poll released Friday showing incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray maintaining a lead of 1 percentage point over Republican challenger Dino Rossi among likely voters.
Murray was ahead 49-48 in the poll taken Tuesday through Thursday, a difference within the poll’s margin of error.
“The bottom line is this is a race that could go either way,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which conducted the survey.
A McClatchy-Marist poll two weeks ago also showed Murray with a 1-point lead – an edge she’s maintained even as independent groups have flooded Washington state with nearly $18.3 million in advertising.
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Among registered voters, Murray’s lead was a little wider, at 47-44. But Miringoff said likely voters, who will most certainly vote, are a better gauge.
Another poll released Friday gave Murray a six-point lead. The KCTS 9/KPLU/Washington poll showed Murray with a 51-45 lead among likely voters.
“Patty Murray appears to be ahead in this contest,” said University of Washington pollster Matt Barreto, who conducted the poll. “I think you’re going to see that play out on election night.”
But the polls have varied widely since the race began, with some giving Rossi a slight lead, others giving Murray a double-digit lead and a bunch showing it’s too close to call.
The Washington Senate race, along with ones in California and Nevada, has attracted considerable attention nationally as political analysts increasingly believe the outcome could determine control of the Senate.
Independent groups, including party committees and those linked to big business and unions, have spent more on the Washington Senate race than in all but three other Senate races – Colorado, Pennsylvania and Illinois, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group that tracks independent expenditures using Federal Election Commission records.
Nearly 54 percent of the independent expenditures have been used to oppose Murray, and 46 percent to oppose Rossi.
Miringoff said the advertising has driven up the negatives of both candidates.
“That means there won’t be a lot of change,” he said. “At this point it is not about convincing voters to change their minds, it’s about convincing them to show up.”
The latest McClatchy-Marist poll showed that 51 percent of Murray’s supporters are enthusiastic about her candidacy, up 7 percentage points from the earlier poll. Enthusiasm among Rossi’s supporters remains at 56 percent.
The poll showed Murray running strong among likely voters in King County, 62-37. The question is whether that will be enough to overcome Rossi’s solid leads in greater Puget Sound, 52-45, the Olympic Peninsula and southwest Washington, 54-44 and Eastern Washington, 57-36.