Washington holds its "jungle" primary today, in which all candidates, regardless of party, will enter battles royale in the hopes of advancing to November's ballot. Party nominations? They don't matter. All the voters get to decide.
So tonight's contests will be one of a kind, and the Senate race will feature a very outside (we're talking theoretical) chance that Murray, the incumbent, will actually come in second to Rossi.
- Will Didier and Akers prevent Rossi from giving Murray a serious challenge? The conservative candidates could eat up a chunk of the Republican primary vote, making Rossi's total appear less impressive, possibly hurting his momentum and donor appeal.
- The Obama factor. President Obama has just touched down in Seattle, and he'll visit a bakery to talk about jobs before headlining two private fundraisers for Murray. Will his presence help Murray? PPP found Obama's approval rating in positive territory in Washington, with 49% approving and 47% disapproving.
- The Tea Party vote/the Sarah Palin and Ron Paul factor. Didier earned the support of both the Tea Party's main demigods, Sarah Palin and Ron Paul. Rossi, on the other hand, has won the backing of the Dick-Armey-led FreedomWorks, the group that has helped organize Tea Party events and trained Tea Party activists. Armey's group is a savvy political operation that chooses its endorsees carefully, analyzing candidates (as it appears to me, anyway) in a process more similar to what the party committees use. After the primary, will the Tea Party vote unite behind Rossi?
- Has Rossi run too far to the right? The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claims he has, highlighting this AP story in a memo to reporters this week and pointing out that he supports repealing Democrats' health care and financial reforms.
- The NFL factor. Clint Didier played six seasons for the Redskins and two seasons for the Packers at tight end from 1982 to 1989 (stats here). NFL preseason is underway. Will it help his appeal?
- Don't let the primary results fool you: it's a close race, one that's been on the radar of both parties for some time. In head-to-head polling, PP shows Murray leading Rossi by three percentage points, 49% to 46%.