From 'Mom in Tennis Shoes' to One of the Nation's Most Powerful Democrats

Having come to Washington as an outsider, Patty Murray earns two high-profile jobs: cutting trillions as a member of the deficit "super committee" and running her party's Senate campaign arm

Patty Murray - AP Photo:Elaine Thompson - banner.jpg

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to name Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to cochair the super committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts gives him a reliable ally on a crucial panel. It is also a sign that the onetime Mom in Tennis Shoes has quietly become one of the more powerful members of the Democratic caucus.

Republicans have reason to be skeptical; after all, Murray does chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, giving her an indisputably political role as she ostensibly seeks bipartisan compromise among the super committee's 12 members. But Reid, in need of a leadership representative, had few options other than the Washington state Democrat. Reid wasn't a fan of the work of the bipartisan Gang of Six, which included Sen. Dick Durbin, his second-in-command. And appointing Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, would have infuriated Durbin, who sees him as a rival for the top leadership job, once Reid leaves.

Instead, Reid once again turned to Murray, who will share chairman duties with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). The move allows Murray to have a hand in choosing which cuts to make and, importantly, which to avoid; that's a big boon to the Pacific Northwest, which has a long history of exerting influence over Congress's budget process.

Three of the past seven chairmen of the Senate appropriations committee--Sens. Warren Magnuson, Mark Hatfield, and Ted Stevens--have hailed from Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, respectively. (When Hatfield took over in 1995, he told then-Sen. Slade Gorton that the regional balance of power had shifted: "Now I'm chairman. And now Oregon is getting all of the money," he said, according to Gorton's former top aide.)

The big winner: Boeing. Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-Wash.), who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee his entire career, was jokingly referred to as the Senator from Boeing for his defense of the company's government contracts. That mantle has fallen to the Congressman from Boeing, Washington Democrat Norm Dicks, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Now, Murray has the chance to take up that mantle and defend the company that employs nearly 80,000 people in her state.

From Gingrich's Ashes

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has insisted for years that he would not be a candidate for national office. As far back as a 2009 roundtable with reporters, held in the shadow of the Capitol, Perry was declaring his disgust with Washington and his revulsion at the prospect of living here.

But that very disgust is what makes Perry a potent candidate. His feelings mirror those of the national electorate, and especially the conservative Republican primary electorate. He can point to an economic record that no other candidate can match. And his credibility among social conservatives is better than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's--making him the candidate best able to position himself as the anti-Romney.

Perhaps most importantly, no statewide Republican has run a campaign that dovetailed better with the tea party base than Perry's 2010 reelection bid. Trailing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by a wide margin early in the race, Perry leaned on the 10th Amendment and seemed to inadvertently touch a nerve to which the tea party movement responded. Tapping the populist vein at exactly the right moment helped Perry reverse an early polling deficit, and Perry dispatched Hutchison with ease.

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