Writings and observations

Why Washington’s GOP didn’t do better

For Republicans in Washington state, this was their best election since at least 2004, and probably a few cycles before that. They made progress: They picked up a U.S. House seat (they had not flipped a single Democratic House seat in the state since 1994, when they flipped six), and seats in both the Senate and House, albeit falling short of control of either. But with visions of 1994 dancing about, they’d hope for a lot more.

And some other voter indicators, notably the passage of a couple of anti-tax measures, gave hope that there would be more.

So, useful reading today in a post in Red County, by Byron Myrick, mulling over why the red tide last week did – as some Democratic politicians said – crash and recede against the left coast.

There’s no one single or simple answer for that, and Myrick isn’t offering a lot here. But several of the points he does make have a common theme.

He has a specific and logical point in one strategic area: The sending of lots of resources to two Republican congressional candidates, incumbent Dave Reichert and newcomer Jaime Herrera, both of whom wound up winning with substantial leads, while other options were less-funded. The notable case was in the 2nd district, where Democrat Rick Larsen evidently has been re-elected but by only a tiny margin; more money to Republican John Koster might have made the difference there. (Myrick’s suggestion that another race, in the 1st district, might similarly have been turned seems less likely.)

His other major complaint concerns Republican state Chair Luke Esser, where he focuses not on what was said before the election but after it:

On Friday morning, Esser broke the calm and spoke with radio talk show host Bryan Suits on KVI 570 AM. His explanation to Suits for why Washington had not followed the national trends for Republican gains: Washington State’s economy was just not quite as bad as the rest of the country. According to Esser, a serious but comparatively mild recession in the Northwest was to blame for dashed Republican hopes. Esser’s rationalization was as hopeless, demoralizing and misplaced as if Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had blamed the team’s monumental loss this past Sunday on better-than-average weather.

The same day, Esser repeated the analysis to David Boze on KTTH 770 AM, confirming amazingly low expectations for the Republican message and implying that GOP wins in Washington can only come against Democrats who have been handicapped by desperately poor economic conditions.

Here Myrick gets at something of real possible significance: The underlying idea that Washington Republicans are simply doomed unless a perfect storm comes along to rescue them – a storm that would have to be even more perfect than the one in 2010, which might not happen for a long time. Myrick: “Having predicted failure – as Esser implies by defining such narrow conditions for GOP victories – it is not only permissible but rational to avoid risks, play defense, and celebrate holding ground as if one were gaining it.”

Keep coming up short over and over, and it does make sense to rethink what you’re doing. (That applies as well to Idaho Democrats and Oregon Republicans.) But the concern Myrick seems to be getting at (whether or not Esser is properly guilty of it, an assessment we’ll not make here) is also legitimate: Presume you’re a loser, and you probably will be one; spend your time in risk-avoidance, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re not putting a lot of numbers up on the board.

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