Due to the relatively small number of ballots that liberal King County expects to add to its vote count tonight—only about 45,000 ballots—the campaign of Patty Murray and state Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz just spent about 20 minutes on a conference call alerting reporters to the fact that Republican Dino Rossi might take the lead in the U.S. Senate race tonight as smaller, more conservative counties around the state plow through their (much lighter) piles of uncounted ballots.
“It is entirely possible that will happen," said Murray spokesperson Julie Edwards, speaking of a Rossi jump into the first-place spot tonight. But, she added: “We are confident that Senator Murray will be the winner of this race.”
Pelz concurred: “We are confident that when these ballots are all counted we will be sending Patty Murray back to the Senate to fight for us.”
Aside from flagging the estimated 350,000 ballots that remain to be tallied in King County (which went for Murray 62-38 in yesterday's count), and what Pelz called the "record breaking enthusiasm" in this area (suggesting the estimate of 350,000 uncounted ballots may be low), the Democrats on the call also sought to highlight a round-up of outstanding ballots statewide that was compiled by the Murray campaign:
Of the 40% of ballots yet to be counted statewide, about 55% are in counties where Murray is ahead or even—King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Thurston and Pacific. In counties where Murray leads, there are approximately 523,000 ballots to be counted based on projected turnout vs. 440,000 ballots to be counted in areas where Mr. Rossi leads.
That suggests things will ultimately go Murray's way, even if she drops behind tonight—and, as the Democrats on the call pointed out, UW pollster Matt Barreto and New York Times polling guru Nate Silver agree.