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Washington state political analysts say challenges from Mr. Didier and other conservative Republicans have pushed Mr. Rossi to shore up his right flank in recent weeks - a move that may complicate his efforts to attract the state’s large centrist voting bloc in November.

Mr. Rossi in recent weeks has called for repeal of President Obama’s health care and financial regulatory laws and trumpeted endorsements from conservative groups such as the Family Research Council and FreedomWorks. Influential Senate conservatives, including South Carolina’s Jim DeMint and Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, have endorsed his candidacy.

Mrs. Murray - who is likely to have far more money to spend than her Republican rival this fall - has already aired an attack ad on Mr. Rossi’s position on the banking bill.

Dino Rossi is taking an extreme position in his effort to curry favor with the far right,” Murray spokeswoman Julie Edwards told the Associated Press late last week. “This is the real Dino Rossi.”

But one of Mrs. Murray’s trump cards - her clout on the Senate Appropriations Committee in winning federal dollars for her home state - has proven a problematic asset in 2010. Mr. Benton said state Republicans will try to tie her to unpopular parts of the Obama administration agenda, but the real focus should be on her congressional record.

“All those years of leadership and no significant legislation on her resume?” he noted. “That should be hammered on.”

Mr. Rossi, 50, has twice run for Washington governor. He lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire in 2004 by the smallest percentage margin in the history of U.S. gubernatorial races - 129 votes in an election where more than 2.8 million ballots were cast - and lost a rematch in 2008 by 6 percentage points.

He raised $1.4 million over roughly his first five weeks in the race and has $1.3 million cash on hand. But Mrs. Murray has raised $7.4 million with $3.2 million on hand, according to the most recent federal filings.