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Acall from the Associated Press/Portland this afternoon prompted the question: To what extent is the national political mood likely to influence down-ticket races? Or, will state and local Republicans pay the price for the unpopularity of Republicans based on the far coast?

The correct answer seems to be “sure – to some extent,” which begs the question of to what extent, which is something we’ll all be wiser about in another week. But some impact is highly likely.

Politicians are picking it up. Oregon’s governor race is one of the clearest examples. It is not directly tied to the Bush Administration or to Congress – the candidates are not running for, never have run for and are not serving in federal office. But the swing in energy in Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski’s campaign came suspiciously close to the time he and his ads starting linking – sometimes with subtlety, sometimes not – Republican Ron Saxton with Bush and Washington Republicans. And if that’s a little subjective for you, the latest Saxton TV ad blitz – in which he acknowledges that he’s a Republican but promises that he won’t be too much of one – ought to be a convincer.

Or consider the numbers.

This is the rundown of partisan balance in the state Senate and House in Washington, Oregon and Idaho for the last two major wave elections, in 1994 and 1980. The numbers indicate the seats held by each party – listed as Republicans/Democrats – before and after those two elections, by chamber.

Yr/Chambr WA prv WA aftr OR prv OR aftr ID prv ID aftr
1994/Senate 21/28 24/25 14/16 19/11 23/12 27/8
1994/House 33/65 61/37 32/28 34/26 50/20 57/13
1980/Senate 19/30 25/24 7/23 9/21 19/16 23/12
1980/House 49/49 56/42 26/34 27/33 50/20 56/15


In all 12 transitions, Republicans gained seats – House and Senate, net totals, in all three states. The size of the gain was widely variable, though. They range from the astonishing Republican pickup of 28 House seats in Washington in 1994 – a number proportionately greater than in the U.S. House that year – down to the modest Oregon changes in 1980. (But remember that in the cases of the Washington and Oregon Senates, moreover, the numbers are held down because only half of those seats are up for election in a single two-year cycle.)

You can figure that the wind at the back of congressional Democrats will help their colleagues down-ticket. As to how much . . . there’s a range of possibilities.

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