Writings and observations

The news site Publicola reports that the wait is nearly over: Republican Dino Rossi plans to announce his entry into the U.S. Senate race, prospectively against Democrat Patty Murray, next week. The reason for the delay, it says, was that Rossi is “finicky” about choosing a campaign manager. (His old one is otherwise occupied.)

Publicola will be proven either right or wrong next week on Rossi’s entry, but the explanation offered here seems thin. It might have more resonance if this were 2009, but this is almost-summer 2010. Delays of single days matter at this when you’re talking about entering a race, and that would be true for a small-town city council, much less a U.S. Senate seat occupied by an entrenched, well-funded, well-organized incumbent. And in which you’re entering a primary already filled with a small platoon of seriously pissed-off opponents, as some of them have made clear they would be if Rossi declares.

If Rossi does declare (we’ll accept it as fact when it happens) and his sole reason for the delay is the search for a proper campaign manager, we’d write him off as a political incompetent. Far more likely – again, if he does enter – something else is going on.

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Washington

A few more scattered thoughts about the Oregon numbers . . .

bullet As of this morning (with a few votes still out, but only a few) voter turnout was low: 35.9% according to the Secretary of State’s office. it was lowest (21.4%) among those not affiliated with the two major parties; in primaries, their ballot is relatively short and don’t include the higher-profile contests, so that’s normal, but their numbers will rise in the general. Republicans got more of their registrants out to vote than Democrats, but only by a thin margin (42.2% to 39.9%) although they had more closely contested primaries than the Democrats did.

But this too shouldn’t be forgotten for the general: Despite slightly higher turnout, Republicans cast significantly fewer votes than the Democrats did – 277,319 Republicans to 345,671, which splits at 44.5% to 55.5%.

bullet In the Democratic gubernatorial, John Kitzhaber won every county (all those as yet counted: Grant County still wasn’t in). The places where Bill Bradbury came closest, holding Kitzhaber to barely over half, were small and remote counties almost sure to go Republican in the fall regardless: Curry, Harney, Klamath (the largest of the group, but very Republican), Lake, Morrow. Kitzhaber was well over 60% in all of the larger counties, suggesting a large and unified base to begin with.

Republican primary winner Chris Dudley topped 50% of the vote (in a somewhat more splintered field) in just two counties, small Sherman and Gilliam. The grace note for Dudley is that his third-best county was Washington (48.2%), the second-biggest in the state and often decisive statewide; and third-ranking Clackamas County (47.6%) was nearly as strong. And where he did less well? He lost to Allen Alley in Douglas, Curry, Malheur, Klamath, Josephine, Coos, Lane (which the only county where Alley cracked 40%), Union and Benton.

What interesting about those counties is that many of them are the same counties where conservative Bill Sizemore cracked 10%. Sizemore’s best counties were Curry (18.3%), Lake (17.4%), Malheur (16.1%), Josephine (14.1%), Douglas (12.5%), Harney (12.1%), Umatilla (11.7%), Jackson (11.7%), Wheeler (10.9%). Otherwise known as the central heart of the Oregon Republican base. Hoe accepting of Dudley will they all be? Therein lies a question for his campaign to ponder in the weeks ahead.

bullet It’s been noted elsewhere, but again: Incumbents in Oregon did pretty well. A number of congressional and legislative incumbents were primary-challenged; none lost. The state leadership challenge to Republican Representative Bob Jenson came close but failed.

bullet Let this be noted too: The two state constitutional ballot measures won big. They were not controversial, there was no organized opposition – but an electorate in the fury so often described by pundits might still have given them more of a contest than they get.

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Oregon