Murray yesterday, not saying what she reportedly said.
  • E.S.
  • Murray yesterday, not saying what she reportedly said.
The campaign of Dino Rossi sees an opportunity in a sentence that Democratic Senator Patty Murray supposedly uttered at yesterday's coffee with local bloggers.

This supposed sentence, as transcribed by PubliCola, came in response to a question about what Murray fears from a possible Rossi win—and possible Republican control of the U.S. Senate—now that Rossi is up in the polls. Here's PubliCola's transcription:

I’m very fearful that they would move forward with things that we couldn’t afford.

Now Rossi is pouncing, via an e-mail statement from spokesperson Erin Daly that links to that PubliCola transcription and uses it as the foundation for an attack:

Senator Murray’s worst fear has already come true: votes have been cast, government spending is running rampant, and Senator Murray was behind it all. Though her tax and spend ways have struck fear in Washingtonians, Senator Murray is in denial because those "things we couldn’t afford" were all done on her watch. Washington families can’t afford six more years of Senator Murray’s votes which have exploded the debt.

The problem: That's not what Murray said. Publicola erroneously recounted her statement, which can heard very clearly at the 21 minute mark of this audio recording. What Murray really said—as I reported this morning—was this:

I’m very fearful that they would move forward with tax cuts that we cannot afford.

That's a reference to the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, which Rossi wants to extend and Murray wants to let expire. (And which President Obama, in his big press conference today, also said he wants to let expire.)

It may seem like a small difference—"things we couldn't afford" vs. "tax cuts that we cannot afford"—but in terms of creating fodder for a Rossi attack, it's actually a huge difference.

By getting Murray's statement wrong, PubliCola opened the door for Rossi to e-mail reporters the above statement from spokesperson Erin Daly, slamming Murray's "things we couldn't afford" line and piling on with a laundry list of past Murray votes that supposedly show Murray already spending her time in the U.S. Senate trying to pass "things we couldn't afford."

Message: "Washington families can’t afford six more years of Senator Murray’s votes which have exploded the debt."

But in fact Murray was talking specifically about the Bush tax cuts—"tax cuts that we cannot afford"—and that's totally different terrain. You can't credibly use Murray's desire to end the Bush tax cuts for an attack on "Murray’s votes which have exploded the debt." The Bush tax cuts themselves are a huge contributor to our country's exploding debt, and letting them expire would help bring the debt under control.

In other words, when you read what Murray really said, Rossi's attack loses its footing.

Murray spokesperson Julie Edwards confirms that Murray was talking about the Bush tax cuts and, amplifying what Murray actually said, e-mails:

Patty Murray supports tax cuts for middle class families to help them buy a home or send their kids to college. The fact is that Dino Rossi wants to add a trillion dollars to our deficit on tax cuts for the wealthiest in America. Washington state families can't afford that. And they can't afford Dino Rossi.

PubliCola editor Erica Barnett tells me the error has now been corrected.

UPDATE: Editor-in-Chief Josh Feit tells me that the Rossi campaign is now shelving its attack because of the PubliCola reporting error.

Thanks... we've corrected that. I've alerted Jennifer @ Rossi's camp that we had it wrong when we wrote "things" instead of "tax cuts." She says she's taking the Rossi release down.