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.
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Washington State Capitol

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

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

Apparently not. Today, Republicans lead the generic ballot by 3.5 percent and Obama'ꀙs 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'ꀙs 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'ꀓled 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.


Lean Democratic: 2nd CD's Rick Larsen v. John Koster. Republican Koster also had a strong fundraising quarter and now has over $200,000 on hand. It's far less than Larsen has, but enough to keep this race interesting. The 2nd is a competitive district. Will the Republican wave get big enough to reach Everett and Bellingham and take out Larsen?

Likely Democratic: Jay Inslee, 1st CD and Adam Smith, 9th CD.None of the Republicans running against these two suburban Democrats are on a fundraising pace to make these races truly competitive. Most surprising is the performance of Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, running against Smith. Muri, like Koster and Herrera, ought to have a fundraising base, yet his campaign, focused on social media instead of fundraising, only raised $12,000 in three months and has just $3,000 in the bank. Has Facebook replaced paid advertising? We'ꀙll see.

Safe Democratic: Norm Dicks, 6th CD, and Jim McDermott, 7th CD.

State legislative races

The July are especially interesting in state legislative races. With 122 races on the ballot, it is often hard to discern the serious candidates from the ticket fillers. Fundraising numbers help tremendously, and, again, by July, serious candidates have raised some real money. In fact, many races have been moved into different categories this month, based on who is and is not raising money.

State Senate

Republicans need a net gain of seven seats to take a 25-24 majority. The GOP has targeted eight Democratic seats, and only two seats of their own are even marginally threatened. And, unlike their House counterparts, they are more than matching the D's in terms of fundraising. The Senate Democrats have roughly $278,000 in their two caucus political committees, while the Senate Republicans have roughly $375,000 in the bank.

Safe Republican: Bob Morton, 7th Legislative District; Jerome Delvin, 8th LD; Janea Holmquist, 13th LD; and Jim Honeyford, 15th LD.

Likely Republican: 42nd District open seat in Whatcom County. Republican House member Doug Ericksen should be able to easily hold this seat for the party. His Democratic opponent has only $5,000 in the bank. Pam Roach, 31st LD (Bonney Lake/Sumner). Roach may be controversial, but the 31st is a Republican leaning district, and none of her opponents are raising serious cash.

Toss Up: Given the national trends, four Democratic seats appear dead even at this point: Steve Hobbs (D) v Dave Schmidt (R) 44th (Bothell); Randy Gordon (D) v Steve Litzow (R) , 41st (Bellevue, Mercer Island); Claudia Kauffman (D) v Joe Fain (R), 47th (Kent/Auburn); and Chris Marr (D) v Michael Baumgartner (R), 6th LD (Spokane). Fundraising totals largely confirm this. Baumgartner has $70,000 in the bank, Litzow has $45,000 on hand, and Fain has piled up an impressive $69,000. Former Sen. Schmidt has only $11,000 in the bank, but his established name ID and the nature of the district keeps this race a toss up.

Lean Democratic: Three Democrats are defending seats in districts that slightly lean Democratic: Tracy Eide (D) v Tony Moore (R) in the 30th, (Federal Way); Eric Oemig (D) v Andy Hill (R), 45th (Redmond/Woodinville); and Rodney Tom (D) v Gregg Bennett (R), 48th (Bellevue). 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. Moore suffers by comparison with $11,000 cash on hand, but as the president of the Federal Way School Board, he is clearly a serious candidate.

And then there is the race between Derek Kilmer (D) and Marty McClendon (R) in the 26th (Kitsap). The 26th leans Republican, but McCLendon has only $4,000 in the bank, which is why the race moves from a 'ꀜtossup'ꀝ to 'ꀜlean Democratic'ꀝ this month. Are the Senate Republicans really serious about this race?

Safe Democratic: Paul Shinn, 21st (Mukilteo, Lynnwood); Karen Keiser, 33rd (Des Moines); open seat in the 34th (West Seattle); Tim Sheldon, 35th (Mason, Thurston counties); Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 36th (Queen Anne, Ballard); Adam Kline, 37th (Southeast Seattle); Jean Berkey, 38th (Everett_; Ed Murray, 43rd (Wallingford, University District, Montlake); and open seats in the 32nd (Shoreline, Lake Forest Park) and 46th (North Seattle).

State House of Representatives

Democrats have a huge 62-36 majority in the lower chamber. Republicans can count on 34 safe seats while the Democrats can call 32 seats safe. There are an additional 13 seats, however, that are in the "likely Democrat" category based on the July fundraising numbers. These are seats in districts that lean heavily Democratic, or in districts that should be competitive but where the Republican challenger has raised virtually no money. There also three open seats, one in Whatcom County, and two in Clark County, that fall into the "likely Republican" category.

That leaves the Republicans with 37 seats safe or likely, and the Democrats with 45 seats safe or likely. To win 50 seats and the majority, Republicans would have to win 13 of the remaining 16 highly competitive races. That's a tall order, especially given the huge financial advantage enjoyed by the Democrats. House Democrats have roughly $465,000 in the bank, compared to just $101,000 for the House Republicans.

Republicans will certainly pick up seats in the House. To actually win the majority, however, Republicans need to start raising more money to put more races in play, or cross their fingers and hope the big red wave gets even bigger.

Here is a look at the most competitive House races.

Toss Ups: There are 12 seats held by Democrats in districts won by Dino Rossi in 2008. Those Democratic seats should be the GOP'ꀙs top targets, but in seven of them Republican challengers have failed to raise enough money to be truly competitive. The five remaining Democratic seats rated as tossups are : John Driscoll, 6th District (Spokane); Deb Wallace'ꀙs open seat in the 17th (Clark County); Tim Probst, 17th; Dawn Morrell, 25th (Puyallup, Sumner); Larry Seaquist, 26th (Kitsap, Pierce counties); Geoff Simpson, 47th (Kent, Auburn). All feature one or more Republican candidates who has raised enough money to be taken seriously: at least $15,000.

One Republican seat makes this list: Skip Priest'ꀙs seat, which he is vacating in the Democratic-leaning 30th District (Federal Way).

Lean Democratic: Two types of Democrats make this list. The first are Democrats in Republican-leaning districts, but who have drawn opponents who appear unable to raise serious money. This would include Pat Sullivan, 47th (Kent, Auburn); Kelli Linville, 42nd (Whatcom County); Hans Dunshee, 44th (south Snohomish County); Chris Hurst, 31st (Bonney Lake, Enumclaw); and Kathy Haigh, 35th (Shelton).

The other type of lean Democratic races includes Democrats in Democratic-leaning districts who are being challenged by Republican opponents with big money-raising capabilities. These Democrats include Troy Kelly and Tami Green in the 28th (Lakewood); Marcie Maxwell in the 41st (Mercer Island, Bellevue); Kelli Linville in the 42nd (Whatcom); Roger Goodman in the 45th (Redmond); and Ross Hunter in the 48th (Bellevue). Finally, the open Democratic seat in the 24th district (Port Angeles) also makes this list of leaning Democratic contests.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Chris Vance

Chris Vance

Chris Vance, a former Republican party chairman, is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.