Vance Report: A red tide is still favoring Republicans

The year started well for Republicans in Massachusetts, and things are looking good for them in Washington state so far.
Washington state capitol: cutting season.

Washington state capitol: cutting season. Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons

On Jan. 19, Republican Scott Brown rocked the political world by winning Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat in Massachusetts. At that time, Republicans held a rare 3 percent lead in national generic ballot polling, and President Barack Obama’s approval rating had fallen to 48 percent. Many wondered if this Republican surge was a temporary blip that would represent the GOP’s high water mark.

Apparently not. Today, Republicans lead the generic ballot by 3.5 percent and Obama’s approval rating now stands at 47 percent. (It would be wider if not for the wildly inconsistent Gallup poll which contradicts all the others and actually shows Democrats leading by 4 percent.)

Here at home, Sen. Patty Murray continues to poll at less than 50 percent of the vote, and trails Dino Rossi 48 percent to 45 percent in's most recent public survey.

We are roughly three months out from the election. The polling has remained consistent, and the narrative of the 2010 midterm elections has remained the same all year: The big Republican wave is still coming.

A big wave, however, does you no good if you can't afford a surf board, so this report is focused on July fundraising totals. Next month we will look at even more interesting numbers: the primary election results, which will function as polling data on every partisan race in the state.

At this point in the campaign, serious candidates should have some serious cash in the bank. Fundraising not only tells us the obvious&mdashwho does and does not have money for advertising&mdashit also tells us if a candidate is serious, and if their Party is serious about them.

Incumbents almost always outraise challengers, so it is more informative to look at how much non-incumbents are raising. You don't have to raise more than your opponent, especially if there is a partisan wind at your back, but you do need to raise enough to get your message out. Mostly, I will focus on cash-on-hand totals, which are far more important than the total raised. Good campaigns not only raise money, they save it for the fall. Too much overhead has been the death of many campaigns.

Federal races

There were no great surprises in the July 15 FEC fundraising results. The campaigns that appeared strong in April confirmed that strength in the second quarter of 2010.

U.S. Senate

Everyone assumed that Dino Rossi would raise a lot of money quickly, and he did, banking $1.3 million. Patty Murray continues her strong fundraising, and has over $6.8 million in the bank.

Left in the dust are Rossi’s Republican opponents. Clint Didier has just over $100,000 on hand, and Paul Akers continues to spend moderate amounts of his own money, but not enough so far to make a real difference.

Some observers continue to wonder if Didier can pull off the kind of conservative Tea Party–led upset seen in other parts of the country. Our "top two" primary system, however, is about name ID and money, neither of which Didier has.

Rossi and Murray will both have plenty of money, and it still appears this tossup November race is going to be determined by national events and trends.

U.S. House

Safe Republican: Doc Hastings, 4th Congressional District, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, 5th CD.

Likely Republican: 8th CD's Dave Reichert v. Suzan DelBene. Democrat DelBene is running a terrific campaign, having banked over $1 million, slightly more than incumbent Reichert. Very impressive. Unfortunately for her, it will take more then money to prevail against the national GOP tide.

Lean Republican: The 3rd District's open seat. Democrat Denny Heck is also running an incredibly impressive campaign and now has over $800,000 in the bank. Republican State Rep. Jaime Herrera, however, remains the favorite to go to Congress. Why? This southwest Washington district leans slightly Republican, which should be decisive in a big-R year. Herrera had a strong fundraising quarter, and now has just over $200,000 in the bank, far outdistancing her Republican opponent, David Castillo, who banked $68,000.

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Posted Fri, Jul 30, 7:07 a.m. Inappropriate

A couple of notes:

First, I think Koster/Larsen has to be, at worst, considered a tossup, given the individual contribution numbers, and the poll data, not to mention the party favorability numbers. Larsen is in big, big trouble, and at this point Koster could possibly win without doing much of anything. Larsen can't attack Koster on the issues very well and the race may come down to whether he can slime Koster enough, which doesn't seem likely.

As to the 44th, Schmidt may not even be on the ballot. Ryan Ferrie has been doing well there (including picking up the Herald's endorsement). On the other hand, Hobbs might miss out too, because of so many angry liberals: this race really could end up being two Republicans pitted against each other. In Western WA, that would be just amazing.


Posted Fri, Jul 30, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate


Not sure the GOP base vote in the 2nd is big enough to call this a toss up, and I haven't seen any polling data on the race. Can you point me to a poll I might have missed?

In the 44th, Ferrie has no money. That makes it tough to beat someone who has name ID from past elections. Here I have seen polls that show its going to be Schmidt and Hobbs in November.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 8:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Vance, while you're reacting/answering questions, any insight on why the House R caucus continues to choose Richard DeBolt as their leader while he leads them off the cliff year after year, evidenced once again by his inability to raise funds to support his candidates, particularly in winnable districts? Is Speaker Chopp so masterful that he's engineering the election of an incompetent within the R caucus? Give us some insight into R thinking, if you would.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 8:31 a.m. Inappropriate

New Rasmussen poll this morning: Murray 49% Rossi 47%. A little bit of good news for Murray, but it doesn't change the big picture. This race is a toss up.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate


Politicians choose their leaders based on a lot of different factors. Winning eleections is only one of them.

The House Rs gained seats the last election, and recruited several good candidates this year. They will gains seats. But I hope they do evaluate their fundraising operation. No reason they should be this far behind the other caucuses.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

The headline writer had some fun: Red tide? Shellfish poisoning? Ouch!

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 9:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Could you talk about how you got your cash on hand numbers? I usually go off of the PDC website, which if you subtract Spent and Debt from Raised only shows Litzow with $19,000 and Baumgartner with $47,000.


Posted Fri, Jul 30, 9:41 a.m. Inappropriate


I did the same, but I did it several days ago. They may have changed.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate


Sorry. I didn't include debt. Debt is often debt to the candidate which may or may not be repaid. I just subtracted spent from raised. That gives you COH.

Posted Fri, Jul 30, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

First of all, the "red tide" relies on low voter turnout. Here in WA state, the defining feature of the mid-term election for federal, state, and local races will be if the proponents of I-1098 can use that issue to stage a massive GOTV for less-than-regular voters who lean Democrat. If so, there will be no "red tide" here. If not, Republicans will make modest gains in a few suburban districts. WA may be split red-blue on state tax issues, but nationally it is solidly blue-- Murray can only be unseated if there is very low voter turnout, and even then probably not.

Second, do you really want to compare Republican victory to an algae bloom??


Posted Fri, Jul 30, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

I submitted this too soon! Lots of new polling data.

New Survey USA Washington State poll numbers (at least they're new to me) Obama's approval rating is down to 44%, Murray's is down to 41%, and Gregoire's is down to 29%. Wow.

Posted Sat, Jul 31, 9:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Ah, for the good old days, when "red" meant "socialist".

(In every other country in the world, it still does.)


Posted Sat, Jul 31, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Rasmussen yesterday had Gregoire at a 46% approve + strongly approve.

Would you agree that the updated cash on hand numbers would be:
Baumgartner: $49,000 (down from $70,000 in the article)
Litzow: $35,000 (down from $45,000 in the article)
Fain: $47,000 (down from $69,000)

Then there's Gregg Bennett and Andy Hill. You said, "Hill and Bennett have proven themselves as fundraising rockstars. Both have over $100,000 in the bank, and both have more money on hand than their incumbent opponents."

But according to the PDC, Bennett has raised about $289,000 and spent $225,000. That only gives him $64,000 on hand. Same with Hill--$131k in, $82k out, $49k COH. Using the Raised - Spent we talked about a few comments above, Oemig is at $38,000 ($11k behind Hill) and Tom at $56,000 ($8k behind Bennett). You're right to say that the challengers lead, but given the head start they had in fundraising due to the special session it still seems surprisingly close.


Posted Sat, Jul 31, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm not sure I see a Republican red tide coming this November.

Given the depth of the Great Recession and the struggles we're having to climb out of it, I expect many voters will remember that it was the Republicans who drove us into this mess in the first place.

So far, at least at the national level, I've heard no apologies for their past mismanagement, only declarations of No, No, and Hell No, against virtually everything Obama and the Democrats put forward, no matter how innocuous.

That's no program for the future, and I suspect it won't win them any majorities either. All negative all the time may win viewers on FOX but that's about all.

Posted Sat, Jul 31, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

For the second week in a row the Gallup poll shows a Democratic preference in the generic ballot survey. Rasmussen's most recent poll in the state recorded a 5 poiont improvement for Murray in a two-way race against Rossi and a slightly larger improvement against Didier. In the same poll, 50% of Washington voters indicate approval of Obama's performance.

The findins were sufficient for Rasmussen to move Washington from "tossup" to "leans Democratic".

Cook now speculates that the Republican wave may have peaked. I suspect we'll see stronger evidence of that when we have some primary data out of the 3rd and 8th congressional districts.


Posted Sat, Jul 31, 5:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Regarding the generic ballot, FOX, Rasmussen, Reuters, CNN, and Quinipiac all show Republicans ahead by anywhere from 2% to 11%. The Gallup poll is an outlier.

Is it an accurate outlier? Time will tell.

And Murray is consistenly below 50% in every poll. That is the key indicator.

Posted Sat, Jul 31, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

When I read this analysis, it seems reasonable, but there are some wild cards to consider.

The advantage that Republicans have so far this year, which might still not be reflected in the data presented, is found in the clear observation that, relative to recent elections, liberal activists are demoralized and conservative activists are energized.

However, Republicans have a clear condition that Democrats do not have, and that is the schism between moderates and activists. In the Democratic party today, the majority of voters who identify themselves as liberal, Democrats, or leaning in those directions are on the same page as the activists who will donate their time and energy to campaigns. Republicans, on the other hand, have a clear challenge of controlling the schism between moderates and Tea Party activists. In some cases, there might be the unpleasant choice of nominating moderate candidates, who will fail to command strong grassroots support, and extreme candidates, who will lose moderate voters.

Then there are the usual wild cards. The economy could make a sharp turn upward or downward, though that seems less likely at this late stage. There could be a major event that redirects the country's attention.

Posted Mon, Aug 2, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Gallup was the first to show a shift in the generic ballot but other polls including Polimetrix and PPP show a shift with the same timing. The mid-July Quinipiac poll showed a narrowing of the Republican lead and the most recent Reuters/IPSOS shows a tie after reflecting a 6 point Republican lead for months.

It is true that Murray's numbers are under 50% but her numbers now don't differ markedly from her August numbers in 2004 when she went on to receive 55% of the vote against George Nethercutt. In August 1998 she was at 51% but went on to defeat Linda Smith 58% to 42%.

Rasmussen pegs Murray's support at under 50% but analysists claim Rasmussen polling in our state reflects a 5-7 point Republican bias as a result of polling method and screening techniques. If they are correct, then Murray's current support is more likely at 53-55%.

PPP polling on this race will be out this week and a new Elway poll is due out soon.


Posted Mon, Aug 2, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

And now Gallup has the Republicans up 5% again in the generic ballot. Has anything changed? Probably not. Gallup is just really inconsistent.

So much for the wave receeding.

Posted Mon, Aug 2, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi Chris: the Koster campaign has done two internal polls, both favoring Koster, though the numbers have not been released. There's also been two independent polls favoring him: and


Posted Mon, Aug 2, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate


I don't consider this "washingtonstatepolls" reliable.

I think Koster has a good chance. I just haven't seen any REAL polling data.

Posted Mon, Aug 2, 8:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Chris: I don't consider ANY polls reliable. I've seen far too many of them. But repeated polls from different sources, that's something.


Posted Mon, Aug 2, 9:05 p.m. Inappropriate

I have previously suggested referring to Nate Silver's
538: Politics Done Right website for interpreting
polls. I think Silver's methodology is consistent and
often accurate.


Posted Thu, Aug 5, 9:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Jaime Herrera may have raised more money, but she is still vague on issues and speaks in non-committal ways too often. Now, there is a highly questionable poll claiming David Hedrick is leading in the 3rd and his supporters continue to smear David Castillo only?

Why is it the so-called "leading Republican" would concentrate on smearing David Castillo, the one they claim has the least amount of support, who also just happens to have made a clean sweep of all 4 major newspapers covering the 3rd CD that endorse in primaries?

The race in the 3rd Cd has turned into one of the worst smear campaigns I have seen between Republicans while Democrats sit back and laugh.

It is almost as if 2 campaigns have teamed up to crush the one they claim has no support.

If this is what the GOP is about, I'm done with the Republican Party.


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