In 2008, Dino Rossi was not so much "the man who" as "the man without who(m)" . . .
He was the measuring point, and may continue to be for a while.
Dial it back a year ago, and imagine Rossi, the photo-finisher for governor in 2004 who didn't become governor, decided that, nah, a second run wasn't in the cards. That little counterfactual leads to a surprisingly long list of events and trends that probably would have played out differently in Washington over the last year. Not so much in terms of overall final political results: Washington wound up with a Democratic-dominated general election as it was. But the changes would have been quite real anyway.
Start with this: When it came to the governor's race, the one big contest on the dock this year in Washington, Republicans were up against the wall. They had scant bench: If their nominee would not be Rossi, the descent to the next most serious contender would have been precipitous. Democrat Chris Gregoire was well positioned for re-election, and against almost any Republican in the state other than Rossi, the race would have been seen as a runaway re-elect from the outset. It would have gotten modest attention, and the psychology would have developed that Washington was set up to be a Democratic sweep state this year. That swiftly would have turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In turn, that might have made some difference in a number of spots. It could have depressed Republican activity overall and especially around Rossi's home turf in eastern King County; the 8th District U.S. House race was close enough that it could have switched. So might several state legislative races, which might have dug the Republican hole deeper still.
Put it this way. Republicans in Washington are in a deep minority, but this year may have marked the end of the fall; taken as a whole, Republicans in the Everegreen did not lose substantial ground again, as they had in very election for a decade. Apart from the loss of a statewide office (lands commissioner), they were able at least to hold their own, which gives them the opportunity to start working their way back. They would have been in worst shape than that, but for Rossi; and that's not a small thing. (more…)