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State GOP getting closer with suburbanites

The wave helped Republicans become competitive again, but they still are short of what's needed to win a top statewide office.

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi Courtesy of Rossi campaign

Sen. Patty Murray

Sen. Patty Murray

The dust is starting to settle now on the 2010 mid-term elections and the picture is getting clearer.  The Republican wave rolled across the country, but it wasn’t big enough here to oust veteran Democratic office holders like Patty Murray, partly because the Democrats saw it coming and worked feverishly in the last few days to turn their voters out.

The main factor here, however, was the fact that Republicans once again simply failed to win enough votes in the Puget Sound, particularly in King County.

Republicans will end up gaining one seat in Congress (maybe two, but the odds seem heavily in favor Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen holding on to his lead against John Koster); four, maybe five, seats in the state Senate; and three to five seats in the state House.  The Democrats will continue to hold solid but reduced majorities in both houses.

Significantly, virtually all the Republican gains are coming in open seats or against freshman lawmakers, while many veteran Democrats are surviving by narrow margins.

Jaime Herrera won an open seat race in the 3rd Congressional District. In the state Senate, Democratic senators Chris Marr, Eric Oemig, Claudia Kaufman, and Randy Gordon, are all losing.  Gordon was appointed to an open seat; Marr, Oemig and Kaufman were all freshmen. Another Democratic Senate freshman, Steve Hobbs, is in a race that is too close to call.

In the House, Republicans won an open seat race in Clark County, and defeated a freshman Democrat in suburban Spokane. They also defeated veteran Rep. Geoff Simpson, who was weakened by legal issues. Two veteran Democratic representatives, Kelli Linville in Whatcom County and Dawn Morrell in Puyallup, are in races that are too close to call.

Sen. Murray, Congressman Larsen (apparently), and about a dozen veteran Democratic legislators, on the other hand, saw their margin of victory greatly diminished compared to previous elections, but they hung on. Why did Dino Rossi and so many other Republican challengers come up just short?

One factor was certainly the surge in Democratic turnout in the final days of the election. Both state parties mounted huge turnout efforts, making hundreds of thousands paid and volunteer contacts, reminding their partisans to turn in their ballots. The Washington State Republican Party made over 1 million volunteer contacts, 300,000 of those occurring in the last five days of the election. For whatever reason, however, the Democratic vote spiked in the final days of the campaign.

On the Sunday before the election, more ballots had been turned in in the 4th Congressional District (Wenatchee, Yakima, Tri-Cities) than in the 7th CD (Seattle). On the Monday before the election, 4 percent more ballots had been turned in in the King County suburbs than in the city of Seattle. Now, the number of votes cast in the 7th CD is slightly larger than the number of votes cast in the 4th CD; and the ballot return rate in Seattle has caught up with the percentage returned in the suburbs.

This late surge in D turnout has caused all the counts since election day to tilt heavily to the Democrats. Democratic candidates at every level and all across the state have seen their vote percentage increase by one to two percentage points.

Maybe the Democrats designed their turnout program to peak during the final weekend, or maybe Democratic voters were motivated by press reports about Sen. Murray being in danger due to an "enthusiasm gap." Either way, the data in terms of ballots returned makes it clear that Democrats mailed in their ballots late.

Turnout, however, is not what defeated Dino Rossi and denied Republicans majorities in the legislature. Turnout was higher in 2004 when Dino Rossi first ran for governor, and yet he did significantly better in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties in that election than he did this year. In 2004, Rossi won Pierce by 4 percentage points and won Snohomish by 2 points. Now he is barely ahead in Pierce and slightly behind in Snohomish. Most importantly, in 2004, Rossi received 40 percent of the vote in King County, losing the county to Chris Gregoire by 18 points in a race that included a Libertarian.  This year he is receiving 36 percent of the vote in King, losing it to Murray by 28 percentage points.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 8:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Long term the Bellevue area is becoming more Democratic than Republican due to the influx of traditionally Democratic demographic voters. Many of these folks are not yet voters, but their kids will be. 10 years from now, this will not likely be represented by a party which is not inclusive of minorities.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013373886_bellevuefestival08m.html

That Reichert holds this seat has more to do with the lack of qualified opponents than anything else.

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 9:25 a.m. Inappropriate

GaryP-

I don't think the data supports this argument. Polls have consistently shown that affluent, well educated voters are trending towards the Democrats. I think that explains the political change on the eastside.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 9:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Might it not be better if the GOP were to run candidates who have more appeal to the urbanized core of the state? Dino Rossi, besides not saying much during his wan election campaign, came across as a small town real estate salesman, rarely seen in Seattle.

It would also greatly help Seattle in the legislature if there were some Republicans in the caucus who had a feel for urban issues and could educate the rest of that rural/small town caucus.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

GOP Rising Stars:
I fully expect to see our state Attorney General Rob McKenna run for either Senate or Governor in 2012. If either seat becomes an open one, I'd suspect that he'd prefer that race. If both incumbents try for another term, it would appear to me that the Governor has the hold on the Democrats with many Seattle Residents unhappy with her handling of transit issues.

Rob has problems with the Liberal Left from his/state lawsuit over national Heath care, but he has supporters from the Transit wars over Sound Transit funding and their choice of Light Rail. I could easily see him triangulate the issues and nullify the King County Democrat voters.

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry: "Governor has the weaker hold"

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

David-

Any Republican who would appeal to a significant number of Seattle voters would never make it to the November ballot.

The key is the suburbs. As I pointed out in the piece, the GOP has won back 7 suburban leg seats in the last two elections. The wins by Hill and Litzow on the eastside are particularly significant.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 10:57 a.m. Inappropriate

"Any Republican who would appeal to a significant number of Seattle voters would never make it to the November ballot."

Well Mr. Vance doesn't that mean no Republican will ever be Governor or Senator in Washington as long as the Democrats don't fragment their party and bother to vote?

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

Chris Vance Wrote:
"Any Republican who would appeal to a significant number of Seattle voters would never make it to the November ballot."

You are absolutely correct, Chris. Read the Washington state GOP party platform, and you'll quickly see why a GOP candidate that appeals to the urban voter will never make it to the ballot. The GOP party just won't accept or fund that kind of candidate. It is contrary to GOP idealogy, and today's GOP is primarily concerned with candidates adhering to its dogma. That is also the reason why the GOP will continue to lose in this state. Winning is less important than idealogy. The key is NOT the suburbs, Chris. The key is winning the damn race. The Democrats had that figured in this election.


Bella

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Mr Vance,
The CNN exit polls show that it's not just affluent white voters who vote overwhelmingly Democratic but people of color as well.

http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2010/results/polls/#val=USH00p1

Which again dooms the current Republican Party on the Eastside, as many immigrants aren't voters but their kids will be. Ten years and it's toast.

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 1:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Gary P. what you are suggesting is more likely to occur sooner than in ten years. I think a good example of this occured in Nevada in the Reid/Angle race. There was an almost 8-9 point difference in the point spread between pre-election polling and actual votes. The very early evidence suggests an engaged Latino effort put an unpopular Reid back into Senate seat. The pollsters completely missed it and the Nevada GOP/Teaparty effort likely misunderstood and profoundly misjudged the demographic makeup of its electorate.

I don't believe the Washington state GOP is actively engaged in appealing to minority voters. The Democrats in Washingotn state have appealed to these voting blocks, and this activity will continue to benefit their party in future elections. Once lost, it can take generations to reclaim.

Bella

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

I will be very blunt: Republicans should seek to win every vote from every American. But if they can't win the votes of rich white suburbanites they have no chance.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 2:04 p.m. Inappropriate

"But if they can't win the votes of rich white suburbanites they have no chance."

That historically has not been the demographic of the Republican party. After the civil war with Lincoln running as a Republican, they used to pull the Negro vote.

Since "rich" is defined by a subset of the majority, (like being above average.) and "white" is a declining number due immigration from Latin America. (driven in part by NAFTA rules which destroyed the economics of the family farm.) it would seem as if this is a self destructive policy.

Would not the Republicans do better if they became more inclusive?

Can you fill us in, why affluent, well educated voters have been tending to voting Democratic? What does their education tell them that makes them vote this way? Do the polls give us any clues?

GaryP

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 2:51 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't think it's any secret that the probable GOP candidate for Gov in '12 will be AG McKenna, and the probable Dem candidate will be Rep. Jay Inslee. I think the GOPs will continue to have a great deal of trouble even holding their own in Greater Seattle, much less making more gains. I don't see McKenna cracking that magic 40% in Seattle-King county, and he's a lot more attractive to other Dems I know than Mr. Rossi ever was or ever could be. The '12 election will be close, but I'd be inclined at this point to give the early edge to Jay Inslee.

TaylorB1

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 7:55 p.m. Inappropriate

What struck me in this campaign was how the GOP doomed itself with a fundamentally blind campaign attitude. It is unable to portray itself as a party which loves Puget Sound and Seattle. It accepts the contrast between East and West in Washington and embraces the East, but that is not where the people, or the voters are. I would bet that there were more than enough moveable voters in King County, people willing to vote for a Republican were there one they could identify with in simple emotional ways. But the GOP will NOT portray itself as caring about the Sound, nor the City. Their pride disdains the urban part of the state. And that dooms them. This is not an issue of politics or platform. It is the feeling the voters have for the name before them. I think the GOP is utterly doomed until they give the impression that they care about that part of the state in which the voters live. I think that McKenna has a chance, because he is regularly visible and audible here in the Sound, but I think, too, that Inslee has the emotional ties that will make him hard to beat.

Spike

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 8:29 p.m. Inappropriate

All this from the same guy who wrote last June:

"If Dino Rossi chooses to run, the Republican world will line up with Dino Rossi," said Vance. "And that will include the conservative base."

"There have always been Republican candidates who split the Republican base one way or the other. Dino was the one guy everybody loved."

How'd that work out for you, Chris?

Kage87Z

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 10:47 p.m. Inappropriate

A little more on my proposal for a Republican who appeals to "the urban cores of the state," not just Seattle. One kind of appeal is to be a strong reformer in these cities, not someone pandering to the current urban power brokers. I have in mind such ideas as charter schools, rewarding efficiency for government programs (as Race to the Top does in education), and encouraging regional consolidation to save money and deploy the suburban tax base to help with urban problems. Remember, many cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have elected Republican reform mayors. Such a candidate would peel off Seattle voters as well as many in the close-in suburbs and the independents. When Dan Evans ran as governor he moved to the left of Democrats on education and environment and clean government. That got him 12 years in office. It can be done, Chris!

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 10:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Kage: The Republican world did unit behind Dino.

David: The issues you cite are not the issues that motivate most people, particularly in a Federal race, and Dan Evans was elected in the era before Reagan and before Roe v Wade. The world is a very different place now. Conservatives are a very large voting block. No Republican can win if he/she alienates conservatives. The trick is to hold the conservative base and add on enough moderate independents to win. Dino nearly pulled that off in 2004.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 11:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Washington has changed since 1972 and so has the state Republican Party. A candidate like Evans could win considerable support from independents and probably some cross-over Democratic support, too. However, it is doubtful that a Dan Evans Republican could fend off a challenge from the right flank of the Republican Party.

More than a few Rockerfeller Republicans of the 1960s found a new home in the Democratic Party in the 1980s and 1990s.

quiller

Posted Tue, Nov 9, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Chris Vance wrote:
"No Republican can win if he/she alienates conservatives."

I more or less stated that in a previous comment above. What is striking is the lack of desire on the part of the GOP to win. GOP idealogical purity is more important than fielding a winning candidate.

Bella

Posted Tue, Nov 9, 8:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Conservatives, including evangelical Christians are a HUGE voting block. Republicans need them in order to put together a winning coalition. If the GOP suddenly shifted to the left on social issues it would get fewer votes, not more.

Quiller is right. Rockefeller/Evans Republicans are now Democrats. But blue collar Christians are now Republicans, especially in the south. The problem for Washington State Republicans is that base is smaller here than it is in other states.

Posted Wed, Nov 17, 5 p.m. Inappropriate

Bella - you can't seriously expect evangelical Christian Republicans to EVER compromise on the abortion issue.

Alex

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