What's Going on in Washington? (UPDATED!)


Talking about possible coattails there is a new Rasmussen poll that shows in the gubernatorial race that Republican Dino Rossi now leads the Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire by 6 points, 52 to 46. Could Washington actually be a battleground state? Could we actually manage to flip this state red?

I don’t know if this warrants an entire diary entry, and Washington is just about as far from my home state as you can be, but I’m intrigued that this reliably Democratic state seems to be trending Republican.

Washington has voted Democratic for President in every election since 1988. Gore carried this state by 5.5 points and Kerry by 8.2. We all know the breakdown of the state with western Washington being liberal and eastern Washington conservative. Democrats have also controlled the office of Governor since 1985. This is a blue state, that much is certain, so why do I write this diary?In 2004, Washington was the site of one of the closest statewide elections I have ever seen. In case you don’t know the story, though you should, I’ll repeat it. Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire were locked in a close struggle in the gubernatorial election. Initially, Rossi was declared the winner after a close, close election, however, after a series of controversial recounts Gregoire was declared the winner, by 129 votes, and was sworn in as Governor of Washington. That was close! Now, we have Rossi reentering the arena for another showdown with Gregoire in this year’s gubernatorial election and it looks like another close one.

The current RCP average for Washington has the race as Leans Obama with Obama leading by 6 points, 48.3 to 42.3, but this doesn’t show the slow, steady drift the state has taken to McCain territory. Every poll before August had Obama up by double digits, or very close to double digits, and it was rated as Solid Obama. We can look at two polls taken at the end of July and beginning of August to see this.

The Elway Poll was conducted between July 27th and 31st and showed Obama with a 12 point lead over McCain, 47 to 35. Incidentally, this same poll showed Gregoire with a 16 point lead over Rossi. The other poll is Rasmussen, conducted on August 6th which showed Obama with a 12 point lead, 54 to 42.

Soon after that we see the race begin to tighten. Survey USA, August 11th and 12th, had Obama up by 7, 51 to 44. Survey USA, September 5th to 7th, had Obama up by 4, 49 to 45. And, the latest Rasmussen has the race tightening even further with Obama’s once commanding lead shrinking to 2 points, well within the margin of error, 49 to 47. What is happening? Rasmussen thinks it knows:

“Washington is the latest state to show a strong western surge for John McCain since he added Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in Washington finds Barack Obama still ahead, but barely. It’s Obama 49%, McCain 47%. A month ago, Obama was up by twelve percentage points. Recent polls have shown McCain gains in Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota.”

It seems as if the Palin effect might be showing up in the state polls now. As an aside, the addition of Palin, if the analysis of Rasmussen is correct, will help turn potential swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada to McCain, and might turn other states like Washington into potential battleground states. Couple this with a potential gubernatorial pickup with Dino Rossi, the latest Survey USA poll has him up by one over Gregoire, and Washington could be a state to watch this election cycle.