Murray in trouble in WA?

Until today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) seemed safe from the backlash gathering against Democrats.  No Republican has managed to win a statewide election for either Governor or Senator in more than a decade, and Washington is a safely liberal cog in the Left Coast machine.  However, according to a new poll among registered voters, Murray trails Dino Rossi, who lost two close elections to Governor Christine Gregoire:

In what is becoming a familiar refrain for Dems, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) could be facing a tough re-election fight, according to a new poll released today by a GOP survey firm.

The poll, conducted by OR-based Moore Information (R), shows Murray trailing two-time GOV nominee Dino Rossi (R) in a hypothetical matchup. Rossi, Moore Information pollsters Bob Moore and Hans Kaiser note, is the state’s best-known GOPer, though he has not been mentioned as a potential candidate against Murray. Rossi has lost two close elections to Gov. Chris Gregiore (D); he notably declined to run in ’06 against Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) to challenge a second time Gregoire in ’08.

Moore Information surveyed 500 WA registered voters on Jan. 23 and 24, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

There is no word on the partisan split in the sample.  Interestingly, their poll shows a 35/35 split on a generic Congressional ballot among Washington voters, which is better news than Democrats hear nationwide.  However, the voters do have a preference for Republicans in order to put a check on Barack Obama’s agenda rather than Democrats to advance it, 45%/39%.  That shows a lack of enthusiasm for the Obama-Pelosi agenda in a state that should be more sympathetic to it.

Independent voters are once again the key to the election.  They support Rossi, assuming he enters the race, by 17 points.  Rossi also has better base enthusiasm, with even moderate Republicans supporting him in the high 80s.  Democratic moderates are more likely to cross over — and perhaps less likely to vote at all.

Rossi only narrowly lost both of his statewide elections to Gregoire, including a 2004 election that prompted a turbulent and messy recount in which Rossi lost an Election Day lead.  He already knows what it takes to challenge Democrats in Washington, and this year the winds would finally be at his back.

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