Jay Inslee (D): 38 (38)
Rob McKenna (R): 44 (44)
Undecided: 17 (18)
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you: The numbers didn't budge at all over the last two months in SurveyUSA's most recent poll of the Washington governor's race. People aren't engaged in this race yet, and given the basic facts—AG Rob McKenna is known statewide, Rep. Jay Inslee is not—I'm not sure there will be much to talk about here until the stretch run.
Maria Cantwell (D-inc): 51
Michael Baumgartner (R): 39
Maria Cantwell (D-inc): 48
Dave Reichert (R): 41
Maria Cantwell (D-inc): 49
Susan Hutchison (R): 38
Ah, but we do have something interesting to talk about here: SurveyUSA takes its first look at the state's oft-forgotten Senate race, where the state's junior senator, Maria Cantwell, is seeking a third term. While SUSA doesn't poll approvals, other recent polls have shown Cantwell to be the state's most popular politician. That's not a surprise, as the last few years have seen her turn increasingly feisty, especially on Wall Street issues, after a wonky and low-profile first term (her relative popularity is also helped by Gov. Chris Gregoire's unenviable task of wielding the state budgetary ax and fellow Sen. Patty Murray now wearing the Supercommittee like an albatross).
And accordingly, she has an easy time dispatching her Republican opposition. That includes not only fantasy-league candidates like Rep. Dave Reichert (who hasn't officially ruled out a bid, but is expected by nobody to run) and Susan Hutchison (a former TV anchor who performed credibly in the 2009 King County Executive race) but the actual live human that the Republicans have found to put himself on the line. If you're wondering who that is, it's ambitious young state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who by all appearances is using a very likely loss here as a name rec-building exercise for a more winnable statewide run later.
Two things Baumgartner has going for him are an impressive resume (Harvard MPA, State Dept. service in Iraq and Afghanistan) and he's very telegenic. On the other hand, he starts out with two strikes: First, he's only been on the scene for two years, having first been elected to the state Senate in 2010, so the request for a promotion so soon may come across as a little cheeky. And second, he represents a seat in the suburbs Spokane in eastern Washington, which, given the size disparity in the state's media markets, simply isn't a stepping stone to statewide electoral success no matter what party you are. (Trivia time: the last person from east of the Cascade Curtain who got elected as governor or senator was Sen. Lewis Schwellenbach ... in 1934.)
There are a few other tidbits looking ahead to 2012 initiatives, where there's a good chance that both gay marriage and marijuana legalization may appear on the ballot. Marijuana legalization is supported 57-39. They didn't ask gay marriage as an either-or question, but in three-part format (leaving it unclear how those who prefer civil unions would break on an actual up-or-down vote on gay marriage): 40 percent support gay marriage, 32 percent support civil unions and 24 percent support no legal recognition. More timely, they also ask about the governor's proposal to temporarily raise the sales tax by one-half of a percent to backfill the budget, which won't be decided by the voters but rather is currently under debate in legislative special session; support for that is split exactly at 47-47.