Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is already raising profile and money for her 2024 campaign, buoyed by a new poll showing Cantwell in excellent shape to win a fifth term. The same statewide survey finds Democrats poised to extend their quarter-century string of presidential victories in Washington.
The survey, by Public Policy Polling, pitted Cantwell in a hypothetical matchup with former six-term U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who has been mentioned as a statewide Republican nominee for governor or senator. It put Cantwell ahead by a margin of 52-37 percent, with 11 percent saying they were not sure.
The poll was conducted June 7 and 8 for the Northwest Progressive Institute, with 773 voters surveyed across the state, 41 percent by land line and 59 percent by cell phone. It has a 3.5 percent margin of error. PPP has Democratic roots but was spot on in its 2020 and 2022 polling, notably in the margin of Sen. Patty Murray’s reelection last year.
The survey found President Biden with a 53-36 percent lead over ex-President Donald Trump, should he be the Republicans’ nominee, with a slightly narrower 51-39 percent advantage over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who does better among independent voters than Trump does.
Trump campaigned twice in Washington during his 2016 bid for the White House but did not come here during his presidency. He twice fell short of 40 percent, scoring 38.07 percent of the statewide vote against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 38.77 percent in 2020. He carried eastern and southwest Washington, but lost by margins of better than two-to-one in populous King County.
Washington was once a swing state but has swung decisively toward the Democrats in recent election cycles. It hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Slade Gorton’s reelection in 1994. The last Republican governor, John Spellman, was elected in 1980. The last GOP presidential candidate to win Washington was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
The most recent Republican presidential candidates to seriously contest Washington were Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush. The elder Bush brought his 1992 reelection campaign to a mill in Colville, while W. visited Ice Harbor Dam to show his opposition to environmentalists’ proposal to remove four Eastern Washington dams from the Snake River. He declared, memorably: “The man and the fish can coexist.”
Cantwell won a narrow 2,229-vote over Gorton in 2000, which was the last Senate race decided in the country. She has since enjoyed three easy races. If reelected in 2024, she and Murray will be poised to serve together for 28 years – the same joint tenure as the duo of Sens. Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson, seatmates from 1953-81.
Cantwell has been on a roll of late. She sits on three A-list Senate committees, chairing the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. She was chief architect of the CHIPS Act, a $280 billion package designed to boost semiconductor research and microchip production. The U.S. currently imports three-quarters of its computer chips from East Asia nations. The CHIPS Act passed with bipartisan support including the vote of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Cantwell is a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She helped design a strategy, using the Clean Water Act, that blocked a giant open pit mine proposed between two prime salmon spawning streams of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. As well, Cantwell has a seat on the Senate Finance Committee.
Cantwell has suffered one defeat in her 36-year political career, unexpectedly losing her House seat in the 1994 Republican landslide. In this election cycle, along with Murray, she has touted federal money flowing into Washington from the Infrastructure bill, notably dollars flowing to projects in the state’s less populous counties. The latest example is $76 million in grant funding and loans for high-speed Internet access in Jefferson, Lewis, Klickitat, and Snohomish Counties.
Cantwell has also signed onto legislation that would codify the right of women to contraception. Murray used her support for abortion rights in last year’s election to defeat Republican Tiffany Smiley by an unexpectedly large margin.
The Democrats face an uphill battle in 2024 as they seek to hold onto control of Congress’ upper chamber. They must defend Senate seats in Montana, West Virginia, and Ohio — states that Trump carried by wide margins in 2020. In Arizona, Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is likely to find herself pitted against both Republican and Democratic challengers. Sinema still caucuses with Democrats.