Since the 1994 Republican tidal wave, Democrats have dominated Washington state politics, particularly during the five elections when George W. Bush defined the Republican Party. Democrats elected and re-elected governors, senators, and members of Congress. In Olympia, they built up huge majorities in both houses of the legislature.
Now, four months out from Election Day 2010, Republicans are in position to take back much of what has been lost the past ten years — if the GOP's national wave is big enough.
The filing period is over and the Republicans have put an impressive team on the field. In Dino Rossi they have their strongest possible candidate at the top of the statewide ticket. They are favored to pick up one Democratic congressional seat, and have a realistic shot at at least one more. They have recruited strong candidates for virtually every competitive seat in the state House and Senate.
The president's party almost always loses ground in off-year elections. The question is, will Republicans make modest gains, or will there be a landslide that actually results in the GOP taking majorities in Olympia and Washington, D.C.? And will the wave actually be big enough to oust Democrats like U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Rick Larsen?
William Galston, writing for The New Republic, does a good job looking at the recent evidence and warns the Democrats to prepare for losing the U.S House. Still, the polling data at this point is inconsistent. President Obama's approval rating remains at 48 percent, pretty much where it has been all year.
More significant is the generic has consistently shown the Republicans with a lead of between 5 and 10 points.
Gallup's poll of registered voters, however, has been consistently inconsistent. A month ago the two parties were tied. The next week Republicans had a 6-point lead, the largest lead the GOP had ever enjoyed in the Gallup poll. The next week the parties were tied again. The next week the GOP was up by 5 points, then there was another tie. Last week, Republicans were ahead by 5 percent, and now this week there is another tie. So what is really going on?
This disparity is extremely significant. If the generic ballot polling is dead even on Election Day, Republicans will make only modest gains. But if the GOP heads into the election ahead by 5 to 10 points, Patty Murray and every suburban Democrat will likely be swept away. Watching the generic ballot numbers will be fascinating the rest of this year.
There were no surprises in filings for federal office. The next big benchmark for those seeking to go to Washington, D.C. will come in mid-July when we get new fund-raising totals.
Fifteen people have filed for the U.S. Senate, but only two names matter: Dino Rossi and Patty Murray. Sarah Palin's endorsement of Clint Didier has made him the champion of conservatives (and liberals) who want to derail Rossi; and in a closed party convention or primary system Didier might give Rossi heartburn. But the recent Elway poll showing the unknown Didier with only 5 percent of the vote confirms that in our wide open top-two system, Rossi and Murray are shoe-ins in the August primary.
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