Vance report: GOP tide could swamp the state's D.C. races, and Olympia too

Polling since last month's primary shows the Republican wave is growing. Most surprising: Democrat Rick Larsen appears to be trailing challenger John Koster.
Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi Courtesy of Rossi campaign

Polls show Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen now leading Republican challenger John Koster

Polls show Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen now leading Republican challenger John Koster

As we come out of the Labor Day weekend and begin the homestretch of the 2010 midterm election campaign, the question still remains: Is this 1994 all over again?

In 1994, Republicans not only won, they won in a landslide. In 1994, Republicans not only took the majority in the state House, they won a huge 26-seat majority. Virtually every Democrat outside downtown Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane lost the election.

After looking at the Aug. 17 primary results I was ready to conclude that this was going to be a good year for the GOP, but not a 1994-type blowout. History shows the primary results in a blanket or top-two primary do serve as a rough poll, telling us which races are competitive and which aren’t. In the 1994 blanket primary, Republicans led — there were more combined R votes than D votes — in 62 House races. This year Republicans led in the primary in 46 of 98 House seats. So 2010 was looking like a very good year for the Rs, but not a rout.

Since the primary, however, polling data has indicated that the GOP wave has gotten even bigger. First, there are the national generic ballot numbers. Every poll now shows Republicans with a substantial lead. In polls released on Labor Day, CNN showed a 7 percent R advantage among registered voters, while Rasmussen had the GOP up by 12 percent among likely voters, the largest GOP lead Rasmussen has ever found. In the history of the Gallup poll Republicans have rarely led in the national generic ballot, and their largest lead ever was 5 percent in 1994. The week before Labor Day, Gallup showed the GOP up by 10 percent. These generic ballot numbers are literally unheard of.

Then there are the horse-race polls in Washington state. SurveyUSA and Rasmussen both show Dino Rossi with a clear lead over Patty Murray. SurveyUSA also shows Republican Jaime Herrera ahead of Democrat Denny Heck, 54 percent to 41 percent, in the race for the open seat in the 3rd Congressional District. Finally, and most surprising, SurveyUSA shows Republican John Koster leading Democrat Rick Larsen 50 percent to 46 percent in the 2nd CD.

It’s a small sample size, but polls in these three races show Republicans increasing their percentages by one to two percentage points over what they received in the primary. If that were to occur across the board — a big if — Republicans would win a U.S. Senate seat, take two more U.S. House seats, win a clear majority in the State House, and gain a 25-24 majority in the State Senate.

Will it happen? Charlie Cook, probably the most respected non-partisan political analyst in the country, believes we are headed to a 1994 redux:

Simply put, Democrats find themselves heading into a midterm election that looks as grisly as any the party has faced in decades. It isn't hard to find Democratic pollsters who privately concede that the numbers they are looking at now are worse than what they saw in 1994.

One thing is clear: The Democratic spin about this being an anti-incumbent election, not an anti-Democrat election, was never true. Not a single Republican-held seat in the legislature or in our congressional delegation is even remotely in jeopardy. Republican incumbents, such as Congressman Dave Reichert, are cruising to reelection. What a difference two years can make.

Unless something dramatic happens, the GOP wave will be big. Right now the only question is, how big?

Federal Races

U.S. Senate: Leaning Republican

I know some people will never accept it, but at this point the data shows Dino Rossi with a slight but clear advantage over Patty Murray. In the primary, the combined R vote led the combined D vote by 1.4 percentage points — 49.9 percent to 48.5 percent. The last two polls not only show Murray well below 50 percent, they show her trailing Rossi. Murray’s financial advantage lessens every day as the Rossi campaign fills up its coffers after a late start.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

AGAIN with the "rising Republican tide" meme? Geez, didn't Vance use that in his last bit... and the one before than... and every piece he wrote during the previous five election cycles?

I guess he figures if he writes it often enough he'll eventually get it right. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 8:06 a.m. Inappropriate

Steve,

This is meant to be one of a series of reports on the 2010 election. If the trend changes I will certainly write about it.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

A few observations about the Gallup poll showing the parties tied in the generic ballot (http://www.gallup.com/poll/142892/Parties-Tied-Generic-Ballot.aspx):

1. Gallup released their numbers after I had submitted this piece.

2. The Gallup results are either an abberration, or an indication that the trend has shifted. Given how inconsistent Gallup has been this year, and the fact that every other poll contradicts Gallup, I suspect it is the former. If the trend has shifted we will see that reflected in subsequent polls. The great thing about the generic ballot poll is we get new numbers every Monday, allowing us to follow trends.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

I don't think you can reliable take national polls on the rising "republican tide" and apply them to Washington State voters. WA, has notoriously fickle voters and when it comes down to election time, have rarely followed national trends.

As for Rossi picking up the Senate seat, highly unlikely. One has to only count the votes in the key counties, Spokane, King, Snohomish and Pierce to realize that while voters are clearly unhappy with the democrats lack of progress on the jobs, and fixing the mess that the previous administration left it's unlikely that will translate in a desire to go back to that same mess making group.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 9:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Just a recap from a month ago: Me: "I think Koster/Larsen has to be, at worst, considered a tossup." You: "Not sure the GOP base vote in the 2nd is big enough to call this a toss up."

You today: "Toss Up: 2nd District, Rick Larsen (D) v. John Koster (R)."

:-)

That said, I dunno if national numbers mean too much, but I am convinced that the independents -- who do not vote as heavily as partisan voters in the primary -- will swing to the Republicans. So even the Democratic four-point advantage (which will diminish just because of leftwing dissatisfaction with Larsen) is going to lessen as the GOP wins the non-primary independent voters by several points.

pudge

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 9:56 a.m. Inappropriate

This is all part of the corporate campaign. The party of the elite and the ignorant will stop at nothing to get back in power. They control most of the media and can put out bogus poll information anytime they want. Who among the populace can verify these polls? Anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that during a depression, or deep recession, that jobs are the last thing to recover. It took the republicans 30 years to screw up our country and now after 18 months, it's suppose to be back to normal? The bottom 98% of America can't be fooled by these corporatists any longer. Fortunately, the voters in Washington State are not easily fooled and have voted in a majority of candidates who actually put working class families ahead of corporate greed and some inherent belief that whites are the rulers of this country. The racism we have seen in the last 2 years is apalling, led by the lunatic right wing Tea Baggers, and flamed by the limbaughs, becks and the like. The only thing missing are the white sheets and cross burning. Does anyone wonder why it's getting harder and harder to get higher education in this country? It's because the elite don't want you to get an education. The dumber you are, the easier it is to get over on you. This is a master plan devised decades ago by Bush' grandfather among others. Don't fall for it people.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Gary,

History shows Washington voters DO closely follow national trends. See 1994, 1992, 1998, and 2006.

Regarding the Senate race, the numbers say what they say: Rossi is ahead right now.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Pudge,

The SurveyUSA poll is new data in the Koster race.
That is what caused me to change it to a toss up.

I am not trying to predict winners; I am just reporting where things stand now

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

"numbers say what they say"

You are citing a known conservative biased polling company, the Rasmussen Reports, Fox news, among others.

You as well as I know that the answers one gets are dependent on how the question is framed.

ie:
"Are you happy with the Democrats running the Senate"
vs
"Would you vote for a two time loser who is supported by the Christan Right?"
vs
"Would you vote for a candidate funded by corporate interests?"

Rossi loses votes whenever he opens his mouth.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

No mention of the 26th? For the first time in their voting lifetimes for Kitsap Peninsula under 60, their US Representative may not be named Norm Dicks.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

...That's Kitsap Peninsula residents under 60.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Gary

I am citing the primary election results, the Rasmussen poll, and the KING 5/SurveyUSA poll. All three show Rossi in the lead.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

dreneman,

I talked about the 26th. Seaquist has a tough race. Kilmer not so much.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 11:05 a.m. Inappropriate

The Moore and Fairbank polls last week both show Murray with a 5 point lead over Rossi. I understand looking at independent polls first but when both parties' commissioned polls reach a different conclusion, I think it is wise to question the independent poll results. I'm very curious about the likely voter screen Survey USA is using. They anticipated a lower and more Republican voter turnout in our primary than materialized. I think they are repeating that error in their general predictions.

quiller

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

How are the races in the state 48th LD looking?
Your former state GOP chair didn't do as well as your hyperbole would let on. Where the libertarian, tea party, Freedom County folks are doing well it does look good.
Not quite the same "tide" with the mainstream GOP folks.

Still no Rossi endorsement from Didier?
This is not your RR Republican party.

Mr Baker

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

quiller,

I wasn't aware of the Fairbanks poll. I don't know enough about it to comment.

Your statement about a Moore poll is not accurate. I have not seen or heard of any recent polling done by Moore Information.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Baker,

The 48th district Senate race is one of the hot races everyone is watching.

The House races are competitive, but not as close as many others around the state.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr Vance,

Care to comment on the funding of the Republican/Tea Party by the Koch brothers?

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 1:52 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, and since this article is full of Republican poll results, lets see what the Democrats are saying about the Murray race.

"A new internal poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee found Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who faces her stiffest challenge yet in a difficult election cycle, ahead of Republican Dino Rossi 50 percent to 45 percent."

And with Moderates hating two time loser Rossi, and Tea Party voters not falling in line it doesn't look good Mr. Rossi.

http://blogs.cqpolitics.com/eyeon2010/2010/09/polls-murray-reichert-larsen.html

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 1:56 p.m. Inappropriate

GaryP,(and others)

I am not here to argue that people should vote Republican, or to defend Republican policies, or to attack President Obama or the Democrats. Maybe I will write opinion pieces again sometime in the future. This year I am just trying to provide information on how the election contest is proceeding.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 2:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr Vance,
I do appreciate your candor, but I object to you citing sources as unbiased when they clearly are and then claiming that numbers are the numbers. The King 5 commissioned poll is the one that appears the least biased but it has an error of 4% which is enough to say that Senator Murray and the other Democrats in the Senate better get their act together or she and several others will be toast.

As for the Koch brothers support of the GOP, it is relevant. Much of the resentment towards the Democrats is coming from people resenting their corporate ties. If the GOP wins with Koch money, it too will dance to the tune of those who paid their way in. And thus its important to voters to know for what they are voting for, as well as what they are voting against.

Any time the WA GOP would like to clean up the financing mess that running a campaign has become I'd be glad to read about it from you.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, and King 5 has a vested interest in a close campaign because it means more money spent on advertising for both candidates. So perhaps their numbers are not just numbers either, eh?

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

GaryP,

So you don't trust KING's numbers but you do trust a poll from the Democratic Senatorial Committee?

As I said in the article, some people just can't accept the fact that Sen. Murray is in a very tough race. Sen. Gorton cruised to re-election in 1994, then lost six years later. Senators are very vulnerable when the national tide turns against their Party.

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 3:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi Mr. Vance,
No I didn't claim to believe any of those numbers. But I find it beneficial to see all sources of data. That way I can adjust for the bias.

And yes the Democrats are in a heap of hurt. And it's not like they don't deserve it. It's just that I have a hard time believing that people would be willing to go back to the GOP version of the future. It's that past history that got us into this trouble.

In 2008 people voted for change, and change is what they didn't get. We are still in two wars inspite of announcements about leaving Iraq 50,000 troops are still in harms way. The tax revenue doesn't cover the expenses of government, and we are still talking about tax cuts for billionaires. All of the politicians seem to be on some corporate take. We have the Obama administration seemly in bed with Goldman Sachs. (See the payoff of AIG debts to GS at 100%) We still have congress in bed with big Pharmaceutical companies by paying full price for Plan D medicaid drugs instead of bargaining like any other large purchaser. We are still building useless over weight fighter jets, F-35, V-22 etc. Unemployment is hovering at 10% official and unofficial numbers have it closer to 20%. Yet we can't seem to resurrect the WPA or the CCC to fix the infrastructure that is trillions of dollars behind in general maintenance.

Trouble is the GOP & Rossi doesn't appear to address any of this instead is focusing on more tax cuts, Gay Marriage, Muslim community centers and downsizing the Federal government. Which if they ever managed to do it would make the unemployment numbers even worse.

Still the Democrats in their panic may yet figure it out in time. The GOP not a chance.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 10:32 p.m. Inappropriate

I go with my gut in these situations and understand Vance's analysis. At the end of the day - voting day, that is, however, I do not expect to see a watershed Republican victory, though I do think Koster has a good shot at knocking of Larson in the 2nd Congressional District and there will be some Republican victories in the state legislature in swing districts.

Yes, the race(s) will be close for multiple positions and the general predilection that independents have for divided government, but Murray isn't going to lose her Senate seat. Period.

MukMan

Posted Wed, Sep 8, 11:56 p.m. Inappropriate

MukMan said "Murray isn't going to lose her Senate seat. Period."

It's not her seat. It's the People's seat. Ring a bell?

matt1234

Posted Fri, Sep 10, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

To say that "it's not an anti-incumbent tide, it's an anti-Democratic tide because the GOP seats are not threatened" completely ignores the fact the the handful of surviving GOP Congressmen in Washington State are from such safe GOP districts that Jesus couldn't get elected in them if He ran as a Democrat.

Goforride

Posted Fri, Sep 10, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Goforride,

Obama and Kerry and Gore all won the 8th CD. Reichert is not in a safe R district. And there are many GOP legislators in competitive districts. None of them are threatened at all.

Posted Fri, Sep 10, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi Chris,

Same church, different room. I'm curious about your take on an aspect of this year's primary. What significant effect, if any, did the top two primary have on the election this year? Even in the kind of wave year this may be shaping up to be, is it likely to have any effect at all on any general election race in November?

Inquiring minds want to know your thoughts on the subject .... and so does mine.

Posted Fri, Sep 10, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

I think the top 2 system had a major impact. It made Dino Rossi's path to November much simpler. It has resulted in many races in November pitting two members of the same Party against each other. And it helped Republicans gain momentum by being able to demonstrate how many of their challenger candidates were viable.

Posted Fri, Sep 10, 3:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for your analysis I've wondered about the actual effects of the Top Two so appreciate your insights.

If the parties are successful in getting the Top Two thrown out, nonpartisan elections are next. Think of the interesting job you'll have handicapping and analyzing those elections.

Whether or not we end up with nonpartisan elections, some kind of point-counterpoint election analysis between you and a pundit on the D side would make for another great read.

Posted Tue, Sep 14, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Dear Mr. Vance,

Another day, another poll.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politicsnorthwest/2012888259_new_elway_poll_has_murray_with.html

This one shows Senator Murray ahead by 5% points. I suspect that it's all in how the questions are asked. But as you say, it's shaping up to be a closer vote than first thought last spring.

On the "Top Two" I suspect it makes it harder for a fringe candidate to win. This is because it's usually the undecided and central voters who decide an election and in a district which votes one party generally, the unhappy with the party voters are less likely to vote the fringe of the opposing party candidate than the middle of the road candidate. In general that's probably a good thing for the country.

GaryP

Posted Fri, Sep 17, 9:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Dear Mr. Vance,

Another week another poll:

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2010/election_2010_senate_elections/washington/election_2010_washington_senate

This one also shows Senator Murray again ahead. Why do you think so many potential voters switched sides in one week?

GaryP

Posted Fri, Sep 17, 2:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, one more bit of commentary. The open primary saved the Republicans in this state from being hijacked by the Tea Party. By allowing cross over votes, the independents who are also conservative leaning kept the Republican Tea Party from having a majority.

Maybe you guys (party leaders) should rethink that challenge to the current primary system.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Sep 22, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Chris - I always enjoy reading your very informative blog.
Councilman
Michael Plunkett

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