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Where Rossi might go

Tomorrow Dino Rossi, the Republican once and presumably about-to-be (we try never to say that something will happen – you never can tell for sure) candidate for governor of Washington, is scheduled to make his big announcement, once in east King County and then in Spokane. (All right, the dual announcement is itself indicative of entry into the race.) At that point, with a formally announced candidate running, the games begin.

So what is Rossi’s strategy? The Seattle Times‘ David Postman has been mulling just that, and poses the question for readers: “What would you tell Rossi to say Thursday when he announces his second campaign for governor? For example, I’ve been wondering how much time he’ll spend in his announcement talking about 2004 and his drawn out battle against Gov. Christine Gregoire. Does it help to make this about a rematch and Rossi’s attempt to claim — or reclaim as he’d say — what Republicans think is rightfully his?”

There’d be temptation for Rossi to do that, coming so achingly close only to see his opponent do a whole bunch of stuff, acting very ambitiously, as though she had a landslide mandate (somewhat like a president of our acquaintance). Our thought is that, aside from maybe a quick reference or two, a wink/nod to the faithful who remain convinced he was robbed, he’d be much wiser to move quickly past it. Focus on his loss in 2004 would cast him as a sour-grapes loser, locked in with the might’ve-beens, stuck in the past, someone out for revenge – not the image of someone you’d want as governor. Besides, those who thought he was robbed already are in his camp; he won’t add to their numbers by emphasizing that bit of history.

How would Rossi be better advised to handle his rematch? By recognizing the political changes the state has been through (such as the overwhelming Democratic control of the legislature), and using them. He could say: “Look at what this all-Democratic state government has been doing – but most important, look at the trend line. I have plenty of concerns with the emphasis on tax increases over the last four years. But that’s not why I’m running again; that’s history. This election is about who will be governor for the next four years. My concern is: Where will four more years of unchecked Democratic control leave us? Do you really want four more years of government so completely in the control of one party, with no one to cry foul or be able to check the bad ideas that come up? Do you want only one set of ideas on the table – or would we be better off having a broader set of ideas in play? Like these that I want to put on the table . . .”

A cautionary note, but without hard-core attack; a call (implicitly, not so explicitly as to put off his partisans) for big-picture moderation; an indication of dealing with a range of ideas, rather than hard-core ideology; a look ahead rather than to the past; a call again (but with a fresh angle) for a partisan break in the governor’s office. (Note to Postman: Here’s your answer from this corner.)

As to what Rossi actually says, we’ll all find out tomorrow.

FLIP SIDE For a sense of the message problems Rossi does face, though, check out the crafty Democratic video about “Rossi’s rationale.”

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