On Politics / David Postman
Musings on state campaigns of election '04
And besides, the governor's race has come down to a complicated math problem, which is not my strong suit.
So as I work toward closure on campaign '04 — You mean we really weren't a swing state? But they promised! — some thoughts through the fog of this week's excessive intake of caffeine and Chris Matthews. The most curious factoid that got little attention: Christine Gregoire's campaign donations from tobacco-industry lawyers. She got at least $15,000 directly from members of the law firm that worked as the lead negotiators for Philip Morris in the tobacco settlement. The firm also held a fund-raiser for Gregoire.
It makes perfect sense that the attorneys who were on the states' side in the deal — some who got quite wealthy from it — would give to Gregoire. And they did. But weren't the tobacco companies the enemy?
A less interesting factoid that got more attention: Turns out Dino Rossi was a real-estate agent. Not a real-estate broker, as he had claimed. In the name of brokers everywhere, have you no sense of decency, senator?
Worst (or best?) avoidance of the issues: Rossi's claim that voters needed a break from initiatives this year so he was going to vote against all of them and not say what he really thought about the underlying issues at play.
Convenient that voters needed the break right when he was running statewide and voters dealt with a tax increase, tax cut, gambling and the state primary. This ploy was even more effective than Rossi's other move, to answer "I'm not running on that" when asked about controversial social issues.
Nastiest and most shallow TV ad: This is a tough one. But I didn't see anything worse than the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee's ad against Dave Ross that I call the "Nuclear Winter ad." It had the requisite spooky music and spouted a bunch of exaggerated claims about Ross while proclaiming that "Dave Ross' America" is not an America you'd want to live in.
Apparently that America was a barren, monochromatic landscape with one barren tree and the Space Needle left. I think the point was Ross would sell and burn most of America to make way for a grand socialist amusement park.
Picking the worst ad was tough because the National Republican Congressional Committee is really good at this stuff. The group also produced an ad that twisted Ross' statement that he opposes a $100 billion missile-defense system into a claim — superimposed on the screen so the link was clear — that it would "empower terrorists." The pictures of little children and terrorists fade as a U.S. flag turns white behind a picture of Ross and the scary-voice man says Ross is "waving the wrong flag."
Sheriff most acting like Barney Fife: This would be Dave Reichert, the beneficiary of the Nuclear Winter ad. He walked out of a campaign forum to protest "negative" campaigning during the primary. The hits he was complaining about didn't even qualify as negative and seemed to mostly underscore Reichert's difficulty with public appearances.
Most clever use of a Democrat sounding like Pat Buchanan: Patty Murray had a TV ad on heavy rotation that showed her standing in an apple orchard. She talked about evils of outsourcing and the need for Boeing to beat Airbus. The great line was the closer, though, "I'm Patty Murray. I approved this ad because it's time to take care of our own."
Murray had a big victory Tuesday, bettering John Kerry's margin at the top of the ticket and dwarfing Gregoire's finish below her. Out of the mouth of a Republican, the "take care of our own" line could have sounded jingoistic and isolationist, maybe even America First-like. It made Murray sound tough. It was, if the senator will excuse the comparison, Bush-like.
I just liked this ad, so sue me: The closing TV commercial from George Nethercutt showing bloopers from a commercial he and his wife were taping. It was a great palate-cleanser to help voters forget some of Nethercutt's nastier attacks that — I'm not sure here — seemed to suggest that Murray was opening a day-care center with Osama bin Laden.
Most desperate plea for attention: Nethercutt's planned ambush of Murray at the airport to force a debate.
Wait, no, this was the most desperate plea for attention: Nethercutt debating a pair of tennis shoes at a forum that Murray didn't attend.
Best declaratory sentence: Rob McKenna's "I'm pro-choice," when asked about his position on abortion. There's more than a little nuance in the position, but it may have meant something to voters who gave him the largest victory margin of any Republican running statewide.
Things I said "may" happen but didn't (abridged): Krist Novoselic didn't run for lieutenant governor; Jimmy Carter did get hammered by Republicans; America Coming Together was not a big presence in Washington state, neither was George Bush in the end; it doesn't look like "record turnout" really turned out in either the Democratic caucuses or this week's elections; and the "10 Commandments judge" from Alabama didn't run a third-party campaign for president that would hurt Bush.
What I'm waiting to see: After Democrats and business leaders reprimanded Senate Republicans for making political hit pieces out of last year's gas-tax vote, what happens to Gregoire if she wins? In the last weekend of the campaign she ran radio commercials attacking Rossi for raising taxes, and specifically included his vote for the gas tax, before the announcer said that Gregoire opposes tax increases.
Boeing even made the highly unusual public statement that it was withholding a campaign contribution to Senate Republicans for politicizing what business groups want lawmakers to think of as a safe tax vote. Doesn't Gregoire's hit on Rossi for the same thing have the same result?
Best victory message: From an e-mail sent to supporters by re-elected Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders. "With your generous help we were able to prevail over the forces of darkness! Although less than 'Saddam Hussein' proportions, we did garner more than 60% of the vote. ...
"Once again, thanks for helping me to keep my government job."
And the best touch was he signed off with a happy-face emoticon.
Best line from the many experts who weighed in on this year's campaigns: "You don't really want to point at a guy and say, 'He had sex with livestock.' You want to say you're troubled by the reports that he may have had sex with livestock." — Jason Stanford, who heads a Texas-based opposition research firm.
David Postman: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
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