Dino Rossi, the freshly-minted Republican nominee for Senate in Washington, is kicking off the general election campaign with a little have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too take on the topic du jour, the Cordoba House project in lower Manhattan.
Rossi, who’s challenging the incumbent Sen. Patty Murray (D) in a state usually counted on to be blue, didn’t go as far as some of his fellow Republicans when it came to opposing the Muslim community center near Ground Zero. Rather than talk up the “insensitivity” of the project as many Republicans have, Rossi chose to focus on President Obama’s recent statements regarding the project.
“I really don’t think the President should have waded into this mosque issue. That’s not really the direction, I don’t believe,” Rossi told NBC’s Chuck Todd last night. “I don’t think anyone disagrees that they have the right to build it. I guess the question is, ‘Is it the right thing to do?’ I think most Americans would say no, that it isn’t the right thing to do. The Governor of New York has even offered to help find a new location. I’d take em’ up on it. That’s what I think they ought to do.”
For contrast, here’s what the more conservative position sounds like, as spelled out this week by Arkansas Republican nominee for Senate, John Boozman:
“Put simply, the construction of the Ground Zero mosque is an insensitive, aggressive political statement whose principle purpose is to irritate the public and stoke controversy. Instead of acknowledging this reality, the President bought the activists’ plea for religious expression hook-line-and-sinker and caved to the winds of political correctness in support of the building.”
Clearly, Rossi is not taking as hard a line as that.
For her part, Murray has yet to make a statement on the Cordoba House project, and did not immediately respond to a request for her view on the controversial community center. Other Democrats in tough races — Kentucky Democratic nominee Jack Conway, for example — have also declined my requests for comment on the Cordoba House recently.
Perhaps the most famous vulnerable Democrat this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has already come out against the project in a way vaguely reminiscent of the way Rossi spoke about it.
Refusing to go all-out in his response to Cordoba isn’t the only place where Rossi is breaking with some of the more conservative elements of his party. In the interview with Todd, Rossi dismissed the talk among some Republican leaders that the 14th Amendment should be revised to prevent pregnant illegal immigrants from coming to the US to give birth to citizens.
“I haven’t been on board,” Rossi said when Todd asked him if he supports the plans to change the Constitution.
Polls show Murray and Rossi running basically neck-and-neck in the general election fight. The TPM Poll Average shows Murray slightly ahead 47.6-46.1.