Politics Re: Gregoire Tops Rossi
posted by September 24 at 12:54 PMon
First of all, the SurveyUSA poll identified Rossi as “Republican Dino Rossi.” As the recent Elway poll confirmed, describing Rossi as “Dino Rossi, who prefers the GOP Party” gives Rossi a three-point boost—a boost that would put him above Gregoire in the SurveyUSA poll, though still within the margin of error. That’s why the Washington State Democrats are suing to force Rossi to correctly identify himself as a Republican—because the label “GOP Party” confuses so-called low-information voters. In June, another Elway poll revealed that fully 25 percent of likely voters didn’t know that “GOP” meant Republican, and seven percent thought it referred to the Democratic Party. A court hearing in that case is scheduled for 9:00 Friday morning, in King County Superior Court Judge Richard Eadie’s courtroom.
Republicans, far more than Democrats, are capitalizing on this confusion. According to the state Democratic Party, 31 candidates on state general election ballots have identified as something other than a Democrat or a Republican. Of those, 27 are claiming to belong to the “GOP Party,” the “Grand Old Party,” or the “R Party”; just one Democrat has identified as a member of the “Progressive Dem Party.” (A Green, an Independent, and a Libertarian round out the roster.)
Perhaps more importantly, Rossi is proving himself to be a far more robust, compelling candidate than Gregoire this time around. Much as she did four years ago, Gregoire is running a lackluster, defensive campaign—painting Rossi as a right-wing monster, pitting him against crying moms, and associating him with George W. Bush. Meanwhile, Rossi comes across as calm, soothing, and folksy—the antithesis of Gregoire’s agitated, alarmist, out-of-touch-with-regular-folks persona.
At the gubernatorial debate last Saturday, for example, Gregoire smiled condescendingly and stuck to her speaking points in her answers to nearly every question. Rossi, in contrast, used folksy anecdotes about his daughter’s allowance (“little Jillian”) and his “small-business background” (“I started out with $200 in the bank and a $200 car and nowhere to go but up”) to avoid answering questions—a dodgy tactic that might not have worked so well had Rossi not seemed so world-weary, honest, and direct. Never mind that he frequently was lying—about Gregoire planning to raise voters’ taxes; about the size of the state’s budget deficit; about his position on stem-cell research. Rossi sounded like he was telling the truth. In the 30-second-sound-bite format of a televised debate, the appearance of honesty matters more than honesty itself.
And Gregoire, in contrast, sounded nervous and canned. Even when she was talking up her blue-collar roots—”When you grow up with a short-order cook and you’re making ends meet, you know how important a job is“—Gregoire sounded stiff, defensive, and out of touch. (Note to Gregoire’s campaign consultants: Please coach her in the proper use of the word “literally.” our nation is not “literally on its knees.”) She also repeated herself too often and too angrily, throwing around phrases like “green-collar jobs,” “I just don’t believe that’s the values of the people of the state of Washington,” and “the failed policies of the George W. Bush administration” like talismans to ward off Rossi’s slick, smooth-talking charm. Instead of going on the attack, Gregoire stayed on the defensive, passing up opportunities to take specific stands on issues like the viaduct (“we’re saying, what do we do, literally, from I-5 to the waterfront”), taxes (“absolutely nobody is talking about taxes in the state of Washington except my opponent”), spending priorities (“It’s called priorities of government budget setting”), and economic development (“there’s a lot of good work being done there.”)
Seattle may have a lot of Gregoire signs—I saw a half-dozen on my way to work this morning—but in Eastern Washington, north of Everett, and Pierce County, Rossi’s support is strong. If Gregoire wants to hold on to her job, she’s going to have to do a lot more than snipe that Rossi’s distorting her record—she’s going to have to make the case that her record makes her worth keeping.