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Posts published in November 2008

ID 1: Minnick runs ahead

Walt Minnick
Walt Minnick

In this election, one of the most remarkable results in the northwest is this: Walt Minnick won.

It is a narrow win, and by many standards it shouldn't have been especially notable. Minnick was a good candidate, smart and personable, had run statewide before (in 1996 for the Senate) and learned from the experience, and his campaign was first-rate. Sali was regarded even by many Republicans as a not very strong legislator, and phrases like "brain fade" and "absolute idiot" have permeated. Sali's campaign has been in debt, was underfunded compared to Minnick's, and until the last few weeks seemed sluggish and low key.

And these all seem to be key factors, because Minnick's win wasn't like that of many other Democrats around the country: It's wasn't atmospheric, not part of the rolling Obama thunder. That's simple to say because Minnick's campaign stands out in Idaho as virtually the only thing to change in partisan politics in the state from two, four, six, eight, 10 years ago.

The Idaho Senate race took on numbers typical of that era - 58% Republican (Jim Risch), 34% Democratic (Larry La Rocco, despite running almost astonishingly hard and over so many months). 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson pulled 71%, about his normal number - no diminishing this year. Legislative numbers didn't budge; some Republicans who seemed endangered last time (like state Senators John Goedde, Joe Stegner and Lee Heinrich) cruised this time. Ada County Democrats did succeed - and it was a real success, in the face of determined Republican pushback - in holding on to the brace of legislative seats they won in 2006, a sign Boise is digging in as a blue city. But instead of winning a majority on the Ada County Commission, they lost what might have been their landmark race (with Democrat David Langhorst) and on top of that lost their incumbent Democratic commissioner (Paul Woods).

That's why Minnick's win is so remarkable. Narrow as it was, just over 3,000 votes over Sali, it stood in sharp relief to everything else in Idaho. And not only that, everything else for a period of years - it's been exactly a decade since the last major Republican official in Idaho lost to a Democrat (that would be Superintendent of Public Instruction Anne Fox, who lost to Marilyn Howard). Republican incumbent losses just don't happen in Idaho.

But it did this time. It's only the slimmest tint of purple, but all of a sudden Idaho is no longer pure blue.

WA: Gregoire beyond recount

Chris Gregoire
Chris Gregoire

Four years ago of Washington's 39 counties just eight - Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Pacific, San Juan, Thurston, Whatcom - voted for Democrat Chris Gregoire for governor over Republican Dino Rossi. That race, as we all known, was a breathtaking photofinish.

This year's contest has the same two candidates but a different roster of counties, at least according to the partial results at the secretary of state's web site. The new rundown of Gregoire counties, as of today, is: Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, Island, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap, Mason, Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Clark and one actually on the east side of the Cascades, Spokane - 16 counties, twice as many.

The race was, and is, still fairly close at 53.5% Gregoire to 46.5% Rossi - the lead was narrower early in the evening and not easily callable until about now (and this is posted about 1 a.m. Wednesday). But it's not as close as last time, and there really can't be any notion that funny business in the King County elections office decided it.

Eric Ealing at Sound Politics remarked of it, "Before I even got to that one, I saw Obama over 60% in the county. That's a very bad sign. It shows a tide to severe to swim against. Outperforming the national ticket by nearly 7% in that big batch of votes is very good. The starting point, however, is very tough to overcome." And all that was a major factor, no doubt.

But so were other considerations. Gregoire has been a fairly effective governor. She campaigned harder and more effectively this time than last. Rossi had the advantage, last time, of being a fresh, new figure; this time, as good as he was as a campaigner (and he was good), he was still the guy who lost last time. Not his fault, but there it is.

Yet to see: Finals in the state's other great grudge match of the year, in House District 8 . . .

ID: Close in the 1st

Idaho look unaffected, remarkably unaffected, by the national sweep of this year's election. Overwhelmingly, the results - incomplete so far, we should note, with only about half of the precincts reporting - look a whole lot like they have two years ago. And four. And six, And eight. And 10 . . .

Based on results as we have them now (not likely to change enormously), the Democratic presidential candidate this year doubled his harvest of Idaho counties compared to the last two elections - from one (Blaine) to two (adding Latah). The totals in Ada County in the presidential are close, but John McCain likely will claim it, narrowly. The U.S. Senate race was a runaway for Republican Jim Risch - he drew the standard-issue Idaho Republican vote percentages.

The incomplete numbers (again, subject to change) show Democrats retaining all of their Ada County legislative gains from two years ago, and their seat in Idaho Falls but failing to win a second seat on the Ada County Commission. A holding action, no more, no less.

Except, maybe, in the 1st U.S. House district . . .

We won't know much more for a while other than that, like the Senate race in Oregon and the governor's race in Washington, this thing looks dang close. Democrat Walt Minnick holds a really close lead of 78,911 to Republican incumbent Bill Sali's 77,021 - less than 2,000 between them, with a whole lot of precincts out. Some are in Latah County, and those should help Minnick; some are in Canyon County, which should help Sali.

No predictions on this yet. Too close to call till the morningtime.

OR 5: Not close

Kurt Schrader
Kurt Schrader

There's really no surprise in the word that Democrat Kurt Schrader is running away with the 5th district U.S. House seat - this a district that, even two years ago, had a very gentle Republican lean and four years ago voted for George W. Bush. (If our scratch math is right, Obama won it comfortably this time.)

What probably should be most immediately noted here is that Schrader didn't just defeat rerun Republican candidate Mike Erickson decisively (59%-36% with about half the vote in), but also in every county, all seven of them. Polk County was fairly close at least; the race was runaway everywhere else. It's a suggestion that Representative Kurt Schrader may hold this seat as effectively as Darlene Hooley has for the last decade.

OR: Obama and Merkley

It's a measure of Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's residual support in Oregon that he is able to run so far ahead of his party's presidential nominee, John McCain.

As this is written, with about 45% of the vote counted, Obama is romping in Oregon with 56% to 41% for McCain. His 77% in Mulnomah County isn't especially remarkable, but his 52% in Deschutes County (Bend) certainly is, and so is his 53% in Jackson County (Medford). Is congressional district 2 in the verge of purpledom? With 87% of the vote counted, he's narrowly ahead in Yamhill County - and that is no doubt a shock to a lot of people. At this point, he seems to be carrying 16 counties. Only Deschutes and Wasco east of the Cascades, true, but highly impressive anyway. Few Oregon Democrats manage that.

Bringing us to the exciting Senate race between Republican Smith, the two-term senator, and Democrat Jeff Merkley, who is now leading by a single percentage point (48% to 47%). Merkley's lead is built out of the traditional Democratic counties plus the tri-met area: Multnomah of course (68%, notably less than Obama), plus Washington, Clackamas, Columbia, Clatsop, Hood River, Lincoln, Benton and Lane. Three small rural counties (Sherman, Gilliam, Morrow) haven't reported yet, but they're almost certainly Smith counties.

Merkley [corrected to reflect intent, as noted in a comment] probably has a slim edge, since only 28% of Multnomah's vote is yet in, one of the smaller reporting percentages around the state - odds are it will be just enough to see him through. What seems clear is that polling that led a lot of people to see Merkley running away with this race (not, it should be said, that he ever gave any indication he thought that was true) probably should have been taken in a more conservative light.

Dang, this thing is close.

President Obama

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

The networks aren't quit ready to do it yet, and maybe they shouldn't. But we're not mass media, so why not: Democrat Barack Obama will be the next president. The numbers tonight show he will win the race.

As this is written - 6:58p Pacific - CNN gives Obama 199 electoral votes, from such states as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and - from the west - New Mexico. He is sure to get the Pacific coastal votes from California (55), Oregon (7), Washington (11) and Hawaii (4), which total 73. Obama appears to be ahead in Florida and other states, but if he won no more than the CNNs and the Pacifics, he has crossed the 270 threshold.

Game over.

In another couple of hours, on to the Northwest races . . .

And a kudo

One more thing before get into the results, a few hours hence. Something unusual in this election season - a word of genuine praise - and even more unusual - aimed at local news . . .

For the last couple of months or so, KGW-TV in Portland has been running a half-hour locally-produced program on politics, local, regional and national. It has tilted a little more national than we might have preferred (there are loads of places for national politics), but nightly it would bring on local and regional political people, from candidates to staffers to analysts. So far as we can tell, it was the only programming of its kind in the region on commercial television, and useful programming: We watched it with some regularity, at a time when regular local nightly newscasts (on commercial stations everywhere in the region) have rendered themselves mostly useless.

Here's hoping KGW continues with something along these lines; it would be a real public service. Meantime, kudos for undertaking it in this season at least.

The watch

Heavy blogging here today and deep into the night - big surprise there, huh? - and we'll start with a quick look at the overview from the early time zones, with some thoughts on what that might mean out here.

We'll be doing a little TV expounding this evening, but other than that it'll mostly be absorbing numbers and blogging about them.

Nationally, our first and only choice for television will be C-SPAN, by far the best national political resource on the tube; none of the rest will be bothered with. Online, there are a batch of great resources, including some innovative stuff at CNN and TalkingPointsMemo. We'll likely do some skipping around to check out other options too.

For the Northwest, here's where our eyeballs will be mostly glued.

WASHINGTON

Secretary of State. The SecState in Washington usually has some of the fastest-reporting (and best-designed) reports in the state.

King County. They say they will have the first round of results posted by 8:15, the next round at 10:30 and thereafter a batch per hour. We'll see: This office hasn't always been, shall we say, Sir Speedy on this stuff in the past.

King County, of course, is politically lopsided, so trends may be more readily discerned through the Snohomish County elections office. The Spokane County elections results and in Clark County may be useful too.

Uncertain what reporting the two state parties may have on their web sites, but we'll be checking the Washington Democrats and the Washington Republicans to see what's there.

The Seattle Times looks to have a nicely comprehensive site ready to roll.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review looks as if it will be fairly comprehensive as well, and take note of the radio show (an hour program starts at 8 p.m.) accessible through its main page.

And, some broadcasters are doing live streaming of results. KIRO-TV in Seattle, for example, plans to crank up around 8 p.m.

OREGON

The Secretary of State's web site doesn't usually provide same-night results. But we'll stop by to see what does come up.

For drilling down, check out the Multnomah County and Washington County election sites.

Best comprehensive spot for Oregon results is likely to be the Oregonian, which has several pages devoted to updated results. They've been generally complete and prompt in recent elections. We'll keep watch too on the Salem Statesman-Journal's page.

Among the TV results pages, we've had the best luck with the KGW-TV (8) pages, which often has been both complete and fast. So we'll probably be back there regularly.

We'll pay some attention to Oregon Public Broadcasting too, the amount depending on what their reports look like.

IDAHO

The Idaho Secretary of State's office has gotten right on top of election night results in recent years, and it should be just about the single best spot for Idaho returns this evening.

The Ada County election results (or here) are traditionally sluggish, but the office was pushing this year for early voting, so that may speed up some of the early returns. Canyon County officials, however, were warning that meaningful results there might not be forthcoming until sometime Wednesday morning (although the current results page does seem to promise results starting at 9:30 p.m. today).

The Boise Idaho Statesman site should be the top news media spot for results. But KTVB-TV (7) often gives it a solid run and sometimes their results are the fastest in the state - they're promising results every two minutes, a high bar if they can do it - so we'll be checking there routinely too.

Why not a split

There remains some view that Republicans may do well in today's election - Coyote at NW Republican picks Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama 294-244. But call that a distinctly minority view - brilliant prognosticating if it turns out to be anywhere near correct.

But the prevailing view is that Obama will win, and substantially. Our take, expressed in a couple of online raffles, is that he takes somewhere in excess of 320 electoral votes. (The final Karl Rove map estimates 338 ev.) That estimate comes in great part from the endless and massive polling (not one full major poll has given McCain a lead for more than a month) but also from an enormity of other material, up to and including the first election results reported in the nation, last night: Obama wins at the two early-voting and reporting precincts in New Hampshire, becoming the first Democrat to win in them in 40 years.

In that environment, there's been an undertone to Republican campaigns for major office in the last week or two: Don't give one party too-full control, with the implicit understanding, suggested by congressional candidates at least, that Obama will win and Democrats in control in the Congress need a brake. That's been a central implicit argument for Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith, and seems to be hovering in the background for the other major competitive Republican in the region, Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.

The split-control argument often has had some appeal in Oregon and Washington, and at this site (public records checkers will find this household registered as non-affiliated). But this year may be different.

Checks and balances are often a useful way to govern, but they do not send clear messages from voters to their elective servants. Decisive results can do that, and that is what landslides are about - not just a vote on the presidential level, but down below as well, because not only presidents but also lots of other people are involved in governing this country.

In 2008, we are at the tail end of an administration with a clear, distinct character, one that took the nation in a specific direction, and it behooves voters to express how they want to deal in the future with its key characteristics. Such as, not limited to . . . Torture. Extraordinary rendition. Unitary executive (code language for dictatorship). Abrogation of constitutional rights on presidential whim. Rejection of duly-passed laws instead of their "faithful execution." Launch of a war that need not have been fought, and not only wholesale deception of the nation in its launch, but - larger - an active preference for war, for war without end, without an articulable objective; atop that, malfeasance in its conduct, and failure to provide proper service to those who fought in it. (What exactly is "victory" in Iraq supposed to constitute anyway?) Hostility to and from most of the rest of the world. Abuse of the nation's judicial system for political benefit. Kleptocracy. Waste and unaccountability on almost unimaginable scale. Deception and outright lying on a stunning unprecedented scale - in active preference to honesty, not merely on occasion but as normal operating procedure. Budgetary mismanagement; public debt beyond compare. Tolerance of overwhelming finance and economic mismanagement. Secrecy - "undisclosed locations." Deceptive and secretive regulation. Crony capitalism. Crony governance. Pay to play. Suppression of science and research. Suppression of voting. Encouragement of ideological and other extremism. Active transfer of increasing amounts of wealth into ever-fewer hands. Dog-whistle encouragement of racist and other forms of hatred among and between Americans. And a lot else, but in all not merely the worst presidency in our nation's history - not even James Buchanan's comes close - but the most appalling, sickening, immoral, dank eight-year back alley of our nation's history.

If the nation's voters, and the Northwest's, do vote in such a way today as to decisively and overwhelmingly repudiate all this, and chart a different course, that shouldn't be too hard to understand.

More cuts, still

And the cuts keep going on - another 10% cut at the Seattle Times. The paper's own story about the cuts "hinted" (however would they have figured it out?) at still more to come before long: "As the 2009 budgeting process continues, there will be additional expense reductions, which may include additional layoffs."

A massive decrease in classified advertising was said to be a key reason for the cuts.

Once again: Where will we be in another couple of years?

Winding down scene: Astoria

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley in Astoria (with Brad Avakian to the right)/Stapilus

From a distance, if you didn't look too hard, the gaggle moving along Commercial Street in downtown Astoria, invading businesses here and there, might have looked like an unruly gang, one of protesters carrying signs . . . except that they were peaceful enough, as you saw when you got closer. They included, after all, a United States senator, a candidate for the Senate, and a bunch of other local and state Democrats . . . All they were asking for was votes, which, this being Astoria and they being Democrats, wasn't unreasonably difficult . . .

This was one of the last campaign days, to put the lead point on it, for Democratic Senate nominee Jeff Merkley, and he was spending it with Senator Ron Wyden and other candidates (including Kate Brown for secretary of state and Brad Avakian for labor commissioner) heading down the north Oregon coast, down 101 to Newport. They gathered outside the Clatsop County Democratic headquarters, where something of a confrontation was underway.

The hot issue in Clatsop (there was a big ballot issue contest on it in the primary) concerns development of a liquid natural gas loading station. Most voters at least in the county are opposed, and LNG-with-a-slash-through signs are all over the Astoria area. But the development has backers too, and about a dozen of them showed up waving "I support" signs. (Several wore shirts or had other indicators of Republican support; one woman wore a shirt saying, "Don't be insane, Vote McCain"). One of them, a man who seemed furiously angry, shouted back at the Democrats for a while.

When Merkley showed up, he moved generally around the crowd, and spent a while with several of the pro-LNG people. There were no votes to be had there - Merkley and they were simply on different sides of this one - but the encounter managed to remain cordial. Not a mean feat. (more…)

Winding down scene: Longview

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi in Longview/Stapilus

That, in the political environment of late fall 2008, Dino Rossi still is even competitive - and he may yet pull off the win - in his second race for governor of Washington, is testament to . . . something. Certainly Democratic Barack Obama will sweep the state in the presidential. And whatever criticisms might be made of the gubernatorial administration of Democrat Chris Gregoire, it has not been catastrophically awful, which often is what it takes to oust an incumbent. And most often, rerun races, as this is, only reinforce the outcome of the original.

The external environment was apparent enough at Rossi's stop midday at The Works, an old-fashioned family restaurant in central Longview: Democratic protesters were out in force with pro-Gregoire and anti-Rossi signs. The crowd of 60 or so inside the restaurant to hear Rossi - evidently a Republican loyalist crowd - seemed a little subdued owing to the general environment. But they responded warmly and eagerly to Rossi; there almost seemed, after all they've all been through, a bond between them.

Watched in commercials and on television, Dino Rossi always comes across professionally but sometimes almost a little too slickly. As he was addressing and working the crowd in Longview, you could see the high energy level but also a more personal and informal appeal at work. Also, a campaigner with an underrated sense of calibration: Working with the people at hand, but not pressing things too far even when he senses they might like it. (more…)