With less than an hour and a half to go until the close of Filing Week 2018, former Republican State Party Chair Susan Hutchison has filed to run against incumbent Democratic United States Senator Maria Cantwell — we presume with the backing of the state party organization she was previously in charge of.
Hutchison joins an extremely crowded field that includes a whopping twenty-eight other challengers to Cantwell… more than a dozen of whom identify as Republicans.
Cantwell is seeking a fourth term in the United States Senate this autumn. She was first elected to that position in 2000, when she narrowly defeated entrenched Republican incumbent Slade Gorton. She easily won reelection in 2006 and 2012 over Republican challengers Mike McGavick and Michael Baumgartner.
Republicans have had plenty of time to find a credible candidate to challenge Cantwell and carry their standard in 2018, but they’ve squandered it.
That could explain why more than a dozen different people had filed to take on Cantwell as Republicans prior to Hutchison’s filing a few minutes ago.
It does not look like Hutchison has been undertaking any preparations to enter the race, which promises to be extremely daunting. (Washington State hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994, and 2018 looks like it’ll be a Democratic year). Her website is not operational, and she hasn’t even tweeted about her candidacy yet. Her Twitter biography still refers to her as the “Chairman” of the Washington State Republicans, a position she gave up months ago.
Hutchison became notorious last cycle for her deep embrace of Donald Trump. When it became apparent that Trump was on his way to the nomination, Hutchison enthusiastically hitched her wagon up to his, and became a highly loyal, fawning surrogate. In fact, she became so devoted to Trump that she clashed with Ted Cruz over his failure to fall into line and endorse the nominee at the 2016 RNC.
Prior to becoming Republican State Party Chair, Hutchison ran for King County Executive in 2009 against Dow Constantine. She was trounced, soundly.
(Constantine has since been reelected twice and remains at the helm of the county.)
Hutchison, a former television news anchor, likely has enough name recognition and will probably have enough money by August to beat the other twenty-eight people (so far) who have an ambition to take on Maria Cantwell.
But even if she manages that, Hutchison will head into the November general election at a serious disadvantage. As mentioned, Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race in Washington State in twenty-four years.
(And that’s not all. They haven’t won a gubernatorial race or secured Washington’s Electoral College votes in almost forty years.)
Are there any Republicans who could take on Cantwell and win in 2018?
Our research suggests not.
Last year, we surveyed over eight hundred likely 2018 Washington voters and asked them whether they would prefer Maria Cantwell or former Attorney General Rob McKenna in a hypothetical matchup. 53% said they would back Cantwell, while only 40% said they would vote for McKenna. McKenna, in our view, would make a much stronger challenger to Cantwell; he would be a top tier recruit.
But even he trails Cantwell by double digits according to our polling. And he doesn’t have the baggage that Susan Hutchison has.
Hutchison’s association with Trump ought to help her push those other Republicans aside — especially if Trump tweets on her behalf from the other coast. But that same association also makes her unelectable in Washington State. It’s hard to imagine an easier mark for the Democrats than the former Republican state party chair.