Spokane, Washington (CNN) - It may not have been the marquee Senate debate of Thursday night – that one took place in Nevada – but the clash in Washington between Sen. Patty Murray and her Republican challenger Dino Rossi was another study in contrasts highlighted by sharply different visions of President Obama's record.
Seated next to Murray in a Spokane television studio for the first of two debates, Rossi worked overtime to portray the three-term incumbent as beholden to the president's agenda by voting in favor of the health care reform bill, the stimulus package and financial regulatory reform.
Eager to tap into concerns about the economy and the national Republican tailwind, Rossi painted a picture of "extreme partisanship in Washington, D.C. that has really taken us in the wrong direction and down the wrong path."
Murray, he claimed, "has been at the epicenter of partisanship in Washington D.C."
Rossi ticked through Murray's many big government offenses: The Senator wants to "punish" high-earning Americans by rolling back the Bush tax cuts. The health care reform bill is "killing jobs" with tax increases and will ultimately "bankrupt" America. The $814 billion stimulus package, which Murray supported, should be abandoned.
"We have an 18-year incumbent that is killing jobs in the state of Washington in vote after vote after vote, on health care financial reform and others," he said.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Rossi even seemed miffed that he wasn't given enough of an opportunity by the debate's moderators to hammer home his anti-D.C. message.
"We didn't get asked any questions about bailouts or financial reform or earmarks or anything like that, but we had a number of other questions that were more localized over here in eastern Washington," he said.
But Murray hardly ran from the national Democratic agenda. Instead, she doubled down on it.
Asked if she had read the entire 2,400-page health care bill, Murray shot back: "Not only did I read it, but I helped to write it."
And when Rossi called for an end to stimulus spending, Murray said the bill is currently employing nearly 3,000 workers at the Hanford Site, a nuclear cleanup facility in eastern Washington.
There were times when Murray carefully distanced herself from Capitol Hill, calling herself "a tough mom when it comes to our budget" and saying she returns home every weekend to listen to constituents.
Asked after the debate about her full-throated embrace of the health care bill, Murray took a moment to say she has heard some concerns about the legislation from voters.
"I am already hearing from a number of businesses who are telling us that one of the forms that is required is over-burdensome, and I've already voted to try and change that," she said, before stressing that she's heard more positive reactions to the bill than negative.
Murray told reporters that she is "delighted" President Obama is coming to campaign for her next week because "he does a great job outlining what's at stake in this election."
The dueling strategies on display Thursday reflected the broader shape of the race: with most voters having already lined up behind either Rossi or Murray, it's now time for each campaign to rally their base supporters.
In a CNN/TIME/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday, Murray was ahead Rossi by a 51-43 margin among likely voters. Just 3 percent of voters were undecided.
Rossi, a multiple loser, is just a tired retread from a pathetic excuse for a political party. He has no new ideas, just a slavish devotion to the disproven "ideas" from the cult of deregulation, tax cuts for the ultrarich and global (unfair) trade. It's funny that the teatards who want "fresh blood" would back such a typical establishment GOBPbagger. So much for "prinicples." Electing him would be like hiring a pedophile to run a preschool or the captain of the Titanic to run a cruise ship. If you liked the ditch the GOBP drove America into last time, you'll love the canyon Rossi is aiming for now.
And according to a vet I know in WA, Rossi has been at the forefront when it comes to improving the VA and vets in general. I guess the GOBP teatards don't support the troops either.
I would also like to point out to all the math-impaired teatards that tax cuts make the deficit WORSE. So if you support tax cuts you really do not support cutting the deficit. Tax cuts have NEVER "paid for themselves." Look it up and educate yourselves, if that's even possible.
rossi and the republican claims of health care killing jobs falls into the absurd death panel lie category............. the only jobs that the republicans 'created' for the past 10 years has been in the financial sector on wall street as shown by the nations GDP for the time frame......republicans are KILLING AMERICAN SMALL and MEDIUM size towns by subsidizing corporations to move their manufacturing jobs overseas..... with repub help and taxpayer money, incentives and subsidies have been given to corporations to be 'more competitive' in the global market and go overseas for the lowest labor cost.......we need jobs across America and the republicans and too damn ignorant and corrupted to accept it and we need more vision and action by the dems
Republicans misleading us in their campaign they will mislead us if they gain the power
Time for us to stop them right now say no to them
Christine Gregoire beat this WEASEL (Dino Rossi) twice for the position of Governor of Washington State and I expect Patty Murray will beat him in the Senate race. Mr. Ross has too many shady deals in his past. The People of Washington just does not want Mr. Rossi but he just doesn't understand this fact.
Yet another entrenched incumbent that can NOT defend her inept record! Except for Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, Murray could very well be the absolute dumbest person in the US Senate!
Murray always had to refer to personal emotional stories because she doesn't have a good grasp of the facts or economics. She doesn't realize that by continuing to handout money, she long term hurts both Washington and the country. I think Rossi will do a lot more for small businesses and jobs. Murray also never defended her commercials when Rossi called her out on her lies.
We like Northwest Republicans about the same way as like spotted owl ... fried madam fried !
I'd like to set up a 50 foot tall banner on I-5 that reads: "MY ENTHUSIASM GAP, REPUBLICANS!" and has my middle finger below. To every Republican in America this is how we feel for your decade's long war against the American worker.
Three strikes..you're out Dino!
You just can't trust him, DON'T KNOW DINO.