Thursday, November 20, 2008

ADDENDUM: Backseat Driving In the Governor's Race

After the long-winded essay on the Governor's race I wrote yesterday, you might think I'd have exhausted all of my thoughts on the subject. Well, think again, because there are a couple of more points I'd like to make.

> This was a close race right up until the end.

Pollster Stuart Elway argued nobody should have been surprised that Gov. Gregoire won re-election handily, but the fact is this race was very close until the end. All of the publicly released polls, as well what we were hearing from the campaign, showed this race in a virtual tie all summer and into the fall. In September, several polls showed Rossi in a slight lead (although within the margin of error). It wasn't until the last couple of weeks of the campaign that the race started to break Gregoire's way. This is in contrast to four years ago, when the race clearly broke Rossi's way at the end.

> Dino Rossi was a superlative candidate for the Republican Party.

Arguably, even in defeat Rossi performed better than a Republican candidate should have in this state at this time. An old friend and I were discussing the election results and we found ourselves trying to come up with the last time an anti-choice, anti-environment, anti-labor Republican won a top-of-the-ticket election in Washington state. We settled on Slade Gorton in 1996. Rossi's policy positions were out of step with most Washington voters and his campaign did a remarkable job of blurring those distinctions through careful and precise messaging.

This year, there were more than 20,000 people who voted in the Gubernatorial race but didn't vote in the Presidential race (which is the exact opposite of what you would expect), and it looks like almost all of them voted for Rossi. [Note: These weren't Obama/Rossi voters, they were Nobody/Rossi voters.] In fact, Rossi received 150,000 more votes than John McCain, and his strength clearly helped Republicans down the ballot. In a year when Obama and Gregoire were winning decisively, Republicans made gains in the Legislature.

> WFSE members overwhelmingly supported Gregoire.

As part of our internal program, we talked to thousands of members about who they supported for Governor. Although it wasn't a scientific survey, when we asked WFSE members in October who they were voting for, 75% said Gregoire and only 6% said Rossi. Further, WFSE member support was evident by the incredible outpouring of volunteers and assistance we received. Close to 600 WFSE volunteers made 18,000 phone calls and knocked on 16,000 doors over the final month of the campaign. Clearly, you made a difference and you should be proud about what WFSE contributed to the overall effort.

As always, thanks to everyone for the ongoing support.

-- Dennis

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