While Patty Murray has a tough fight on her hands for reelection in Washington this year her junior colleague Maria Cantwell appears to be on slightly better ground as she heads for her own 2012 reelection contest. She has better approval numbers than Murray and has outside the margin of error leads against a pair of hypothetical opponents.
Cantwell's approval rating is 46% with 38% of voters disapproving of her. That +8 net approval rating compares favorably to the +1 standing we found for Murray (46/45) earlier this week. Opinions about her break almost completely along party lines with just 9% of Republicans approving and 6% of Democrats disapproving of her. Independents split slightly against her, 39/44.
Tested against a pair of Washington's Republican House members Cantwell leads Dave Reichert 47-41 and Cathy McMorris Rodgers 49-37. McMorris Rodgers is almost a complete unknown statewide at this point with 74% of voters having no opinion of her. Reichert is better known but doesn't have great numbers- 25% of voters across the state have a positive opinion of him while 29% see him negatively. That's largely because Democrats (47%) are more unified in their dislike of Reichert than Republicans (39%) are in seeing him favorably.
Of course 2012 is a long ways away and we wouldn't have said Patty Murray looked vulnerable at this point two years or even one year ago. But it's a good sign for Cantwell that she doesn't have as many voters who dislike her as Murray does, and that she leads these potential contests even in a bad political climate for her party.
Full results here