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The Vance Report: Look out, Democrats. National politics will drive state's election

A Republican wave is building nationally. Will the wave be a tsunami strong enough to wipe away Democratic control in Olympia and give Republicans a U.S. Senate seat here?
President Obama delivering the State of the Union address. He and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have become political targets for Republicans.

President Obama delivering the State of the Union address. He and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have become political targets for Republicans. White House/Pete Souza

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.

Federal races

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.

U.S. Senate

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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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 4:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Great analysis and I agree that National issues will define the races this Fall. However, those national issues are highly volatile and not fully defined yet. I would say the 4 national issues most likely to drive elections are: 1) Jobs 2) Immigration 3) Money in Politics and 3) G.O.D. (Gulf Oil Disaster)

1) JOBS
As George Bush learned the hard way against Bill Clinton, it's the economy stupid. However, as the voters know very clearly, both the Republican and Democratic parties are completely inept at keeping jobs in the U.S. Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, which created the giant sucking sound that Ross Perrot predicted it would and has sucked millions of jobs out of the U.S. The Republican Party openly celebrates the loss of jobs as a victory for corporations seeking lower labor and wishing to bust the unions. Since jobs and unemployment will be key in a year where unemployment is running at 10% to 20%, it will be interesting to see if the 2 major parties have anything intelligent to say about bringing jobs back to the United States.

2) Immigration
This issue, is of course, related to jobs since illegal immigrants are being given jobs that Americans feel they deserve and very much need. Again, since "It's the economy stupid", both parties will be challenged about how they will deal with the illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. and what to do about them. This is another issue both parties have shown themselves to be inept at handling.

3) Money in Politics
Money will flow by the millions and hundreds of millions of dollars from the corporations to the Republican campaigns this year. This is thanks to the ridiculous ruling by the Corporate Supreme Court stating that Money=Speech and Corporations=people. This ruling enables corporations to spend as much as they want to buy politicians this Fall. Maybe the reason Chris Vance is so optimistic about a Republican wave is that he knows the gusher of money that will be directed to Republican candidates this Fall. One can only imagine the slanderous attack ads that will be directed at Patty Murray, paid for by the Corporate persons who run our Democracy today.

4) G.O.D. - Gulf Oil Disaster
The mother of all oil spills will most likely still be gushing into the Gulf of Mexico come November and Americans will continue to be focused on it. There are 2 ways to place fault on this issue. Either BP screwed up in a big, big way or the government screwed up by lax regulations. Either way points to more rigorous regulation of the oil industry. But this reality runs completely counter to the core of the Republican party. The Republican party still maintains that Government IS the problem. Republican candidate Rand Paul has even gone so far as to call President Obama 'Unamerican' for criticizing British Petroleum.

This will be a very volatile year politically as shown by the 20% undecided voters in the generic ballots that Chris Vance mentioned. The Republican 'wave' is nothing more than media spin at this point that seems to only be obvious to Republicans. The wave could very well wind up being a mirage.

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 4:33 a.m. Inappropriate

This is going to be a great year for the Republican Party. The GOP has a lot to be excited about with Dino Rossi, Dan Satterberg, Nancy Wyatt, Joe Fain, and others!

I think Rossi’s ads should be similar to his announcement video – speaking directly to the camera. It comes across as more respectful to the voters than a typically ad. And Rossi should include a picture of Governor Christine Gregoire, even though he’s not running against her. She still represents government overspending and incumbency. And her approval rating has dropped from around 50 percent when she was “re-elected” to the low 30s. Rossi benefits from that.

Rossi will be aided by strong Republicans “down the ballot” like Nancy Wyatt in the 47th legislative district.

Republicans should coalesce around candidates like her, running in competitive suburban districts.

Nancy Wyatt, Joe Fain, Dan Satterberg, Dino Rossi – onward to victory!

AmyH1983

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Chris has done a workman-like job of laying out the details and examining them. But I am wondering if anyone besides me feels that poring lovingly over the minutae of of an election driven by fear and rage is the modern equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

woofer

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Interesting article and analysis. Sounds as though the electorate isn't yet through changing its mind about the type of political leadership it wants to see.

I'd be equally interested in the author's analysis of another political phenomenon: the impact of changing primary election systems on the state's major political parties. When it comes to winning general elections, do different types of primary systems benefit political parties differentially?

Mr. Vance was at the helm of the state's Republican party when it joined the Democratic and Libertarian parties in suing to eliminate the blanket primary. While the suit was successful, his party has lost a truckload of legislative seats in every subsequent election.

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

A couple corrections and additions for those of you that care about politics outside of King County:

1st LD (actually Bothell and Mountlake Terrace, not Shoreline) - Both House seats are up for grabs, but will likely go to Ds - Stanford and Moscoso.

21st LD - Looks highly competitive for both Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents Roberts and Liias. In fact, Borey has out fundraised Roberts $44k to $16k. Scott has been able to draw Rossi and McKenna out to fundraisers and only trails Liias $55k - $39k. These will definitely be interesting races come November.

32nd LD (Shoreline) - Sen. Fairley is not running for reelection. Chase, Fairley's seatmate in the House, is running for the position and is the expected favorite. Democrat Cindy Ryu, former Shoreline Mayor and Councilperson, looks strong to take Chase's position in the House. Kagi toyed with the idea of Fairley's Senate seat, but decided to play the safe bet and stay in the House.

38th - No real suprises in the House seats, but watch out for Harper who is challenging fellow Democrat Berkey for her Senate seat. The Everett Herald wrote a good piece a few weeks back and the endorsements are starting to rolling in.

44th - It may be wishful thinking to call Dunshee's race a toss-up, but it will certainly be competitive. Hobbs has more than former state Senator Schmidt to worry about in his Seante race. Ferrie is the true change candidate for the GOP and has the backing of the County party. Kaufer, the Democratic hopeful, also has the support of the County party. All three hopefuls are within $5k of each other.

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 4:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Don't count out Rep. Norm Dicks (6th District) being tossed out.
There are ethical questions about the illegal contracts issued by the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), and Rep. Norm Dick and his two sons, K&L; Gates law firm, and the Cascade Conservancy. The State Auditor’s office issued an audit report, nr. 1003598, located at http://www.sao.wa.gov/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1003598.pdf, which identifies numerous PSP contract law violations. Among the findings is an illegal no-bid contract to K&L; Gates law firm for $19,999 presumably to skirt the no bid announcement requirement of $20,000, but which then was modified to over $51,000. Numerous ethical violations were made in the justification, award, and modifications, but I want to point out a few items that were NOT in the report, and have not been widely reported in the press. K&L; Gates helped establish the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP), and I believe helped Rep. Norm Dicks’ son, David Dicks, get appointed by Governor Gregoire as the PSP Executive Director. K&L; Gates is Rep. Norm Dicks’ 4th largest political contributor in 2008 http://www.opencongress.org/wiki/Norman_Dicks, and often brags to clients about its ability to provide access to politicians. The PSP contract appears to reward K&L; Gates for its support and contributions. This perception is fueled by the over $400 hourly rate charged, the falsely identified urgency that allowed the PSP to bypass the Attorney General’s office, which could have done the work, and the missed deadlines. An additional $10,000 PSP ‘gift’ to the Cascade Conservancy appears to reward them for having employed Rep. Norm Dicks’ other son, Ryan Dicks, as a lobbyist. Ryan Dicks then was appointed to a 2-year job, paying $93,000 per year, with Pierce County spending over $4 million of taxpayer money earmarked for some energy efficiency projects http://blogs.thenewstribune.com/oped/2007/07/23/new_job_for_ryan_dicks. Is this more quid pro quo? As a military officer, trained in government contracting, I can tell you that the appearance of a conflict of interest is nothing to be ignored. And this issue is separate from the PMA scandal which enveloped Rep. Dicks and hit the press a couple months ago.

In his Appropriations Committee post, Rep. Dicks is keeper of the purse strings for a variety of federal land management agencies -- the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and EPA. The scenario I described illustrates just how detached from ethics some politicians (of any stripe) become when they experience increasing power over such a long period of time. Not only should Rep. Dicks be defeated next November, he should feel personally and professionally embarrassed for the conflict of interest he allowed to occur, and should resign for allowing such an egregious breach of ethics.

His two challengers Doug Cloud www.dougcloud.com, and Jesse Young www.jesseyoungforcongress.com are both capable opponents. Once the public sees how earmark money is being used to get a Congressman's sons appointed to spend the money, the district could change hands.

Posted Wed, Jun 23, 5:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Actually the candidate which best taps in the real populism that is going on among the electorate has the best change.

http://www.alternet.org/story/147277/time_to_take_on_sarah_palin

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they seem to be aligning with the corporate masters of the media, big oil, the war machine, etc. It's unlikely people will want more wars, more bailouts for bankers, and more jobs moved over seas via tax laws that let corporations shelter income by doing so.

Democrats aren't clean here either which means in our "best two" of the collection in each election, we could have some very interesting races.

As for Dino Rossi, the two time loser about to make it three. I'm glad the Republicans are again wasting money here. But what could be very interesting is that he could be eliminated in the primary if any one else gets a hold of the populist anger.

GaryP

Posted Thu, Jun 24, 5:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Randy -

Your comments about Norm Dicks breaking the law are so cute. However, we no longer live in a country of laws and most Americans know that. Distain and disgust for everything in DC reflects that. Americans know corruption is the new law in DC. Americans know that the super rich and powerful have different rules. Americans know that corporations and corporate lobbyists own every last elected official in DC, with a couple of exceptions perhaps.

You cite an illegal, no-bid contract to K&L; Gates law firm. This is the same law firm that used to be Preston, Gates and Ellis, where Bill Gates' father worked. They got caught up in the Enron scandal and had to rename themselves. But they're still in business.

So the Norm Dicks scandals may be an interesting story. But the political parties are only interested in the corruption or perceived corruption of the other party. And as such, corruption is going to increase.

The polling that Chris Vance quotes shows 'independent' voters at 20-30%. That reflects the disgust that people have for both parties and they're running away. The tea party is a group disgusted with the Republican Party and their big government, big spending ways.

Huge changes are needed in our political system to start to restore anything that resembles a representative democracy elected by the people. It's almost pointless to talk about, though, because both parties are not interested in representative democracy. They're only interested in money, greed and corruption. I don't doubt your examples about Dicks. But big deal. That's how everyone works in DC.

Posted Sat, Jul 3, 11:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I can't believe a man of your experience would fall for that bogus paid for by Herrera's campaign poll showing her with such a lead. Even if her campaign had not commissioned and paid for it, a poll of less that 300, predominantly from within Herrera's legislative District I hear rumors of, is a meaningless poll considering over 500,000 registered voters in the 3rd.

Where Jaime should be worried is her poll shows 49% of those less than 300 people do not support her and claim to be undecided.

A strong candidate would not have to cook any poll like this.

Bogus claims of irrelevant polls didn't get Ron Paul elected in 2008 and it won't get Jaime Herrera back to her hearts desire of Washington D.C. either.

LewWaters

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