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Still, Reid has tried to take advantage of Nevadans general opposition to the project by pointing out that his opponent, Republican Sharron Angle, supports opening the repository.
As one of the most endangered incumbents this election cycle, Reid has spent the better part of the past year and a half battling sinking poll numbers and popularity in his state, but his fortunes improved in a poll last week that showed him beating Angle.
Murray did not appear to have a tough race until polls in Washington state earlier this year showed her popularity slipping. Then, perennial statewide candidate and well-known Republican Dino Rossi jumped into the race. Murray needs a strong showing in the states Aug. 17 open primary to beat back the notion that she is vulnerable.
Failure to get Yucca ready to accept waste from Hanford has been a Rossi talking point against Murray.
Sen. Murray has finally responded to Dino Rossis request that she take immediate action to ensure there is no delay in getting nuclear waste out of Washington State by restoring funding to Yucca Mountain, Rossi spokeswoman Jennifer Morris said in a statement this week. For all Washingtonians who want to see nuclear waste out of Hanford, we can only hope Senator Murrays decision to finally put Washington state ahead of Senator Reids political fortunes isnt just a desperate election year conversion.
Murrays campaign has vigorously objected to the notion that Rossis recent push on the issue has anything to do with her recent efforts.
The reality is that Patty Murray has been fighting for Hanford cleanup for years, Murray campaign spokeswoman Julie Edwards said.
Her campaign points out that Murray has been unafraid to take on her own leadership, given that in 2002 she was one of only five Democrats who supported designating Yucca Mountain as the repository site. Murray and others in the delegation earlier this month sent a letter to the Energy Department calling for the administration to let legal battles on Yucca Mountain play out before trying to close the facility.
Rep. Doc Hastings, who joined Murray on that letter, said Wednesday that the issue is a sensitive one in the state but declined to say how it might affect Murrays fate in November.
I cant judge how its playing in her Senate race, the Washington Republican said. But I know in my district the issue of closing Yucca Mountain is very, very bad policy. When she joined me in signing that letter, along with other Senators and Members, that was a positive thing. But I cant tell you how thats going to play.