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Conventional wisdom around D.C. is that Dino Rossi, despite being a two-time loser, is the great Republican hope for beating popular Democratic Senator Patty Murray. That conventional wisdom rests on polling done by a Portland-based pollster, to go-to pollster for NW Republicans, and Rasmussen, the go-to pollster for all Republicans, which keeps pegging Murray at below the magical 50 percent threshold.

On the basis of the Rasmussen-driven narrative that Murray might be in danger if Rossi was to get into the race (as CQ Politics speculates, based on his meeting with NRSC chair Cornyn yesterday), we decided to have R2K poll the race. What R2K found? Patty Murray is the most popular Democrat in the state, with (contra Rasmussen) a 52 percent approval, and a 51 percent approval among all-important Independents. Only Obama is more popular with Washingtonians.

What's more, she handily beats the leading conventional-wisdom contenders Rossi and Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-08).

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 3/22-24. Likely voters. MoE 4%.

Patty Murray (D)   52
Dino Rossi (R)     41

Patty Murray (D)   51
Dave Reichert (R)  43

What the other Washington continues to ignore is that Dino Rossi comes with a lot of baggage, as Goldy pointed out last week.

While Rossi would no doubt like to be elected Senator, insiders say he’s not so keen on the idea of running. Nor is serving in the other Washington all that appealing....

But perhaps the biggest reason why you won’t see Dino Rossi’s name on the “Prefers GOP Party” ballot anytime soon, is that the post-economic-collapse political climate and the financial scandals that precipitated it have virtually assured that Rossi’s own business dealings would be exposed to the kind of public scrutiny he managed to mostly avoid in 2004 and 2008. And it’s not so clear that Rossi’s reputation would hold up so well under such circumstances.

Of course there’s Rossi’s close business relationship with his longtime mentor Mel Heide, who pleaded guilty to bilking millions out of clients two years before Rossi finally severed their ties, not coincidentally in the middle of Rossi’s first political campaign. Heide’s shady real estate dealings have been reported at length, but Rossi’s own business practices while in Heide’s employ have never been fully investigated.

But of even greater concern to Rossi and his image makers might be a more recent scandal, his sweetheart deal and unreported $50,000 loan from real estate developer Michael Mastro. Back when the story was all but brushed off by the media in the final days of the 2008 gubernatorial campaign, Rossi’s spokesperson dismissed it as an “11-year-old oversight,” but since then Mastro’s own shady dealings infamously came to light after the state filed securities charges [pdf] against him in the wake of a financial collapse that has cost hundreds of local investors all of the $100 million they entrusted in Mastro.

Kinda like the Puget Sound’s own personal Bernie Madoff.

Cornyn might be desperate to take out a popular Dem, but desperate enough to take on Rossi and all his baggage? Doesn't seem likely, and it seems less likely that Rossi is going to actually jump in, particularly if it means his shady dealings get more exposure. So much for conventional wisdom.

Update by kos: We polled this race 13 months ago, and there hasn't been much slippage in that time. Murray's favorables have gone from 55-40, to 52-41 -- within the margin of error.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 11:26 AM PDT.

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