A new poll finds U.S. Sen. Patty Murray with tepid job-approval numbers — but a big early lead over her Republican challenger — as she gears up for her re-election campaign in 2016.
Just 41 percent of voters surveyed gave the four-term Democrat a positive job rating, while 49 percent rated her performance “only fair” or “poor,” according to the statewide Elway Poll released Wednesday.
Those are worse numbers than Murray had at this point in her 2010 campaign, when 48 percent of voters gave her a positive rating, with 38 percent negative, longtime independent pollster Stuart Elway said.
The new poll found 43 percent of voters inclined to re-elect Murray, with 50 percent undecided and 7 percent preferring “someone else.”
Murray’s Republican challenger, former state GOP chair Chris Vance, has a big gap to overcome.
In a head-to-head poll matchup, Murray beat Vance 44 to 23 percent — a 21 point lead.
Still, Vance quickly publicized the poll, saying Murray’s numbers are a sign the 2016 race will be competitive.
“At this moment, my numbers mean nothing. It’s about her numbers,” he said.
“This narrative that I am on some kind of windmill tilt is wrong,” Vance said. “She is very vulnerable.”
Vance added that Democrats’ “trackers” are following him around to record his speeches. They’ve also filed a records request seeking thousands of his state government-related emails. (He has worked for the past several years as an adviser to Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction.)
In an emailed statement, state Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens said Murray has a “strong record of fighting for Washington state families.” He predicted voters will sour on Vance the more they learn about his “long record of extreme partisanship, commitment to failed Republican policies like tax cuts for the rich, and cheerleading for failed politicians like George W. Bush.”
This is hardly the first time a poll has tantalized Republicans by showing Murray to be potentially vulnerable.
The “mom in tennis shoes” elected to the Senate in 1992 has never enjoyed intimidating job performance ratings, Elway noted. She’s never been above 50 percent heading into any previous campaign and was in negative territory heading into three of them.
“Yet she has won them all, against formidable opponents,” Elway wrote in his poll memo.
The statewide telephone poll of 500 registered voters was conducted using live interviewers between Oct. 13-15 and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.