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February 2, 2010 at 12:05 PM

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Rossi vs. Murray? So far, only in a pollster's dream

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- Here's a tantalizing scenario: Dino Rossi and Patty Murray in a statistical dead heat for the U.S. Senate.

That's the result of a poll released last week by Moore Information, a Portland-based Republican polling firm. In a survey of 500 registered voters in Washington between Jan. 24-25, 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Rossi, who twice lost the election for governor. Forty-three percent said they would vote for Murray, a three-term incumbent, while 9 percent were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Now the fine print: Rossi says he's not running. And the poll tells us nothing about how the November elections might actually turn out.

Pollster Bob Moore, president of the firm, said he inserted Rossi's name in an otherwise generic poll because Rossi may be the best-known Republican in the state. Moore said he also thought about picking Rob McKenna, Washington's attorney general, but didn't think he had quite the same name recognition.

Moore said the poll is a snap shop of voters' current mood, which right now looks ominous for Democratic incumbents. Asked which party's candidate they would vote for in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives, voters were evenly split at 35-35 between Democrats and Republicans. The rest were undecided.

"The last time I saw these kinds of numbers was back in 1994" when Republicans took control of Congress, Moore said. "Democrats are not as popular as they were in 2008 and the Republicans have a real chance to pick up some seats."

As for the poll's predictive value in November, Moore cautioned, "There is none."

When I reached Rossi on his cell phone, he firmly -- yet coyly -- put the kibosh on the idea of his candidacy.

"I am not running for any office at this point. I have no campaign," Rossi said.

Asked if he's at all tempted by the idea that this might be the best year in a while to mount a political comeback, Rossi gave this standard demurral: "I never said I would never run again for public office."

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
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Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
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Mike Lindblom
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Kyung Song
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Bob Young
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