Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFormer RealNetworks exec Maria Cantwell is the junior, freshman senator from the state of Washington who squeaked by Slade Gorton in 2000. There’s been a lot of talk about her vulnerability in 2006 against a strong Republican candidate. Dragging down Cantwell’s chances are angry progressive Democrats who disliked her votes on Iraq and Rice (and ignore her positive work, described below), and are looking for primary opponents. (Deaniac Chad Shue is pushing the candidacy of peace activist Mark Wilson.) While people like Kos insist that Washington state is safe for Democrats, a lot of us know better. Washington voters are independent and will vote for whoever they perceive is the sharper cookie … How the White house is involved, below the fold:
Writes The Seattle Times this afternoon:

White House weighing in on strongest Cantwell rival

By Alicia Mundy, Seattle Times Washngton bureau

The White House has a message for would-be Republican challengers to Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell: No messy primary.

The White House has made Cantwell among their top targets in the 2006 midterm elections, and has told some candidates it wants to avoid an expensive intraparty battle.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThat means that there likely will be no Republican primary in Washington state for the three men who are considering running against Cantwell — former U.S. Rep. Rick White [PHOTO], state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance and Mike McGavick, the chairman and CEO of Safeco.

However, there will be a primary of sorts — in Washington, D.C. And it’s already begun.

Vance and White visited D.C. recently to meet with Bush administration officials and Republican campaign gurus to gauge interest in their potential candidacies and set the groundwork for fund raising.

This is being done, though, with the understanding that the first shot would go to Dino Rossi in the event the GOP fails in its lawsuit to overturn the November gubernatorial race Rossi lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire.

Both Vance and White said the White House has expressed its interest in a primary-free election against Cantwell. Cantwell, who is in her first Senate term, has been named one of the most vulnerable Democrats by numerous campaign journals and political consultants.

The White House will not send either the president or vice president to the state for a “nasty” primary, Vance said.

“The White House and national party don’t determine who gets the nod,” Vance added, but for a race that is crucial to Bush’s strategy for increasing GOP seats in Congress, “The national party and the people in D.C. will have a role.”

Added White: “We [Vance, White and McGavick] have all talked and agree there can’t be a primary.”

The White House played a similar role in recruiting candidates and trying to avoid primaries in the 2004 races for governor and U.S. Senate. …

Don’t listen to anyone — even Kos — who tells you this race is safe for Cantwell. She’ll be in the fight of her life, and so will all of us. And the progressive-leaning Democrats had better wake up, and get on board. Their passive, resentful attitude — because their favorite candidates lost the primaries — almost cost Chris Gregoire the governorship and did cost liberal Dave Ross an East King County congressional seat that went to rightwinger Dave Reichert. (Can you tell this is one of my big beefs?)

Most recently, Maria Cantwell gave a stirring floor speech against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales, emphasizing his involvement with Enron, and she joined forces with John Kerry to lead the almost successful fight to save ANWR.

The Republicans, according to the Times article above, are convening to hand-pick a candidate and to avoid a bloody primary vote. The Democrats must do the same for Cantwell.

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