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Inside Politics: 2012 is beginning to look a lot like 2004

A nation divided, a state waiting to know who will be its new governor: Haven't we been through this already?
Gov. Chris Gregoire, left, and GOP challenger Dino Rossi endured close races in 2008 and, especially, 2004. (KOMO-TV)

Gov. Chris Gregoire, left, and GOP challenger Dino Rossi endured close races in 2008 and, especially, 2004. (KOMO-TV)

As a veteran of the Rossi recount drama I hate to say this, but with two weeks to go this election looks like 2004 redux. The governor’s race is dead even, and the electoral college map looks almost identical to the Bush v Kerry race in 2004. It could all come down to a few votes in Ohio. In the really big picture there is one thing we already know: Barack Obama has, so far at least, failed to realign American politics and we are back to a 49-49 nation.

Here’s where we stand two weeks out. Neither Mitt Romney, nor Barack Obama, “won” the second debate in any meaningful way. The national tracking polls and state polls in battleground states have not shown significant movement since the second debate.

Romney has perhaps pulled ahead in the southern battleground states, Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and maybe Virginia. The president, however, appears to be holding on to small leads in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and, most importantly, Ohio.  The map right now looks a lot like the map of the 2004 election

In 2004, if John Kerry had won Ohio he would’ve been president. If the election were today, it seems Ohioans would once again choose the president.

I use words like “perhaps,” “appears,” and “seems” purposefully, because the polls in the battleground states are virtually all within the margin of error. Polling is accurate, but imprecise. All we know for certain about any contest that is within the margin of error two weeks out is that it is too close to call. There is a lot of gnashing of teeth right now on the Internet about which polls are accurate. Who do you believe, Gallup or Nate Silver? It doesn’t matter. Too many “analysts” are over-analyzing the current situation. The election is very close and a few undecided voters in a few states will decide the race. That is all anyone can say for certain. The final polls, taken the weekend before the election, may, or may not, be predictive.

One thing does seem clear; this will not be a landslide for either party. In 2008, Democrats enjoyed a 10 percent advantage in generic ballot test polling (asking, “if the election were heId today, would you vote for a Republican or Democrat for Congress?”). In 2010 it was the GOP that enjoyed a 10 percent advantage. Today the generic ballot test shows a 1 percent lead for the Democrats, and it appears that Republicans will continue to have a majority in the U.S. House, while the D's will hold onto the Senate. We are again a nation in political stasis, evenly divided between the two parties.

Here at home, Sen. Maria Cantwell is cruising to re-election; the race for attorney general appears very close; Republicans are battling to gain more seats in the legislature; and Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan Del Bene in the 1st Congressional District are engaged in the only interesting race for Congress. Many people are passionately interested in the various initiatives on the ballot.  But the big players, and the big money, are focused on one race only: Who will be our next governor?

This past week, three polls were released. All showed Democrat Jay Inslee with a lead of between 1 percent and 3 percent, well within the margin of error. All these polls were conducted a week or so ago. In fact, the UW’s Washington poll includes interviews conducted before the first Romney v Obama debate. Polls are accurate only on the day they are taken, which is why campaigns engage in nightly tracking polls. Late this week, Republican tracking polls showed McKenna with a very slight lead.

The key factor in the race for governor are the undecideds. Roughly 10 percent of the voters are still undecided, far more than in the presidential race. Both the Washington Poll and the SurveyUSA poll showed McKenna with a 7 percent lead among independents, and far more independents are undecided than are Republicans or Democrats. If this trend holds, McKenna should benefit from late-deciding independents. Perhaps the final polls will predict a winner. Or maybe we will have to wait a while before knowing the name of our new governor. Again.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Oct 23, 10:23 a.m. Inappropriate

The president was given a wonderful opportunity in 2008, and he squandered it. After promising cooperation, he called legislative leaders into the White House and lectured them about how "I won the election", ignoring the fact that everyone in the room had won his or her election too. He then adhered to the same type of hyper-partisanship that defined the Clinton and W-Bush administrations for the previous 16 years. Rather than institute policies to get the economy going, he turned a deaf ear to economics, and showed no interest in the welfare of American business, other than to treat it like just another interest group, rather than the engine of our prosperity. His "You didn't build that" speech was far more damning in it's totality than the sentence about roads and bridges, which the White House frequently cited out of context, suggests. And he plowed through Congress Obamacare, a baroque, all-invasive catch-all hodgepodge monstrosity that was based totally on a desire to grab power, not to analyze and solve some very real problems with how Americans pay for health care. To this day, more people resent than endorse this sweeping change. Mr. Vance is understated in the extreme with his characterization that the president "failed" to bring about political change. You can only fail at a task in which you try to succeed. The president didn't even try.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Oct 23, 2:32 p.m. Inappropriate

I totally disagree with the characterizations of the previous commenter. From day one, the Republican Party has dedicated itself to the total obstruction of the Obama Presidency. It has waged an unprecedented war of misinformation, filibusters, and unfounded attacks. A cabal of "birthers", "tea partiers", and religious zealots have conspired to thwart progress and economic recovery all in the name of returning to power at any cost. Obama has been remarkably gracious considering the personal nature of these savage attacks. If the " job creators" are feeling slighted by this President, they should look at their own record. Corporations are sitting on record levels of cash, yet they are refusing to hire. It's just another example of the sabotage from the political right.

Posted Tue, Oct 23, 11:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Obama has been entirely too gracious. Graciousness and an attempt at collaboration fis interpreted by the Republicans as weakness.

Dbreneman, your posts are usually rational and fairly factual. That one was neither.

sarah90

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