Republicans use $4 million to yank Washington’s Senate seat back into their crosshairs

A week ago, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray looked like she might be running away from Republican challenger Dino Rossi in the Washington Senate race. But that was before the GOP launched a nearly $4 million fusillade of TV advertising.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has begun running $3 million in ads that will last until the Nov. 2 election.

And Crossroads GPS, an outside group that is part of a rising infrastructure of new conservative political groups built by Republican operatives such as Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, announced Tuesday they will pump an additional $780,000 into the Evergreen State.

It’s a sign that for all their talk of a Senate takeover being a two-cycle project, Republicans think they have a chance at doing it this fall. Washington could potentially be the 10th pickup for the GOP that would push them over the top in their quest to regain a majority.

Murray’s lead over Rossi, a two-time candidate for governor in the state with broad name recognition, moved up to roughly 6 points during the latter half of September, after Rossi had pulled even in August. Murray has been running tough TV ads since Labor Day, which Republican and Democratic operatives both said were effective.

But now polls have begun to trend back in Rossi’s favor, shrinking Murray’s aggregate lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average to 3.3 points.

Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for Crossroads GPS, said that the independent group is spending the second-biggest portion of a $4.2 million several-state buy Tuesday into Washington “for two reasons: Rossi’s strength generally as a challenger, and because Seattle’s media market, while expensive in absolute terms, is cheap relative to New York, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia.”

Collegio made clear that Republicans are pushing hard to try to get to 10, even though leaders such as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the NRSC chairman, have avoided talking about such an outcome this year.

“The math is clear – putting an end to Obama’s rubber-stamp Senate requires at least one win in either Washington, California, Connecticut or Delaware,” Collegio said.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put $2 million toward the Washington race a month ago when the NRSC’s ad purchase was first reported. But nationally, the NRSC has had more flexibility on where to spend its money – both the NRSC and DSCC had about $24 million at the end of August – because independent groups like Crossroads GPS have been pouring money into races.

Republican Linda McMahon’s self-funded campaign in Connecticut – where the former WWE CEO has said she will spend $50 million of her own money – has also helped the NRSC avoid spending money in an expensive market that remains a long shot, though McMahon has cut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s lead in half since the summer. She still trails by about eight points, however.

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