Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why Rossi Can Win

Republican candidate for governor Dino Rossi spent this past Thursday visiting Kitsap. It was an interesting day to say the least. A high-powered local fundraising committee was established — which includes some local Democrats, or as he calls them, "Dinocrats." A series of subsequent meetings with rank and file voters also had them whipping out their checkbooks.

In the interest of full disclosure, before going any further, let me say that Rossi and I are personal friends, and that I serve of the board of the pro-business organization he founded, the Forward Washington Foundation. But that aside, in my mind, he has a real chance to win. Here's why I think so:

• Polls show him in a statistical dead-heat with incumbent governor Christine Gregoire. In head-to-head (2004 and now) polling, she has never polled 50 percent against Rossi — no matter who conducted the poll — independent polling organizations, Republicans or Democrats. This is a clear sign of danger for Gregoire, whose popularity numbers haven't reached 50 percent at any time while she has been governor either. Here are samples of some of the polling:
Question: Who would you support for governor?
The Washington Poll (Nov. 2007) Gregoire 46% Rossi 42%
Strategic Vision (Oct. 2007) Gregoire 47% Rossi 45%
Moore Information (July 2007) Gregoire 47% Rossi 43%
The margin of error in any poll depends upon the number of people contacted To be considered credible, the number sampled must be large enough for the margin of error to fall somewhere between 3 and 6 points. So you can see how close this truly is — with 10 months still to go.

• The political climate is such that a Republican can win the Governor’s race in heavily Democratic Washington State. In 2006, a horrible election year for Republicans nationwide, voters elected Republican Governors in six states that have as much or more of a partisan Democrat electorate than Washington. Those are:
Connecticut 2006 Rell (R) 63% DeStefano (D) 35%
Minnesota 2006 Pawlenty (R) 46.7% Hatch (D) 45.7%
Rhode Island 2006 Carcieri (R) 51% Fogarty (D) 49%
Vermont 2006 Douglas (R) 57% Parker (D) 41%
Hawaii 2006 Lingle (R) 62% Iwase (D) 35%
California 2006 Schwarzenegger (R) 56% Angelides (D) 39%

These examples demonstrate that voters view their governors differently, as well as establish a more personal relationship with them as opposed to their federal legislators.

• Money is always a major determining factor. Rossi's financial support is already far exceeding that of the 2004 race. Rossi announced his candidacy on October 25 and had raised more than $1.7 million by December 31. By comparison, in the 2004 campaign it was mid-April before he reached that figure. But here is an alarming statistic if you're Christine Gregoire — of the over 12,000 donors that had given money as of December 31, almost none are Olympia lobbyists, and more than 40 percent who have donated, are NEW contributors.

• Gregoire is also prohibited from fundraising during the legislative session. This means given the rate contributions are flowing in, and the ongoing organization of new fundraising sources such as the local committee just established, Rossi could conceivably catch — or surpass — her in cash on hand by the end of the session. When that happens, look for the lobbyists to begin opening their checkbooks as well. Gregoire is also spending her cash at a much faster rate than Rossi.

• TV will be a major factor. Let's face it, looks count — especially on TV. And look for a LOT of money to be spent in this campaign on TV advertising. Rossi has a distinct advantage in that he is a physically handsome man, with a easy, soft-spoken manner that comes across extremely well on TV. He's one of those people who is genuinely warm and friendly, and it shows on TV almost as well as in person. Gregoire on the other hand, appears cold, distant and confrontational — both in person as well as on TV. Her physical appearance in front of the TV camera emphasizes her hard-edged negatives — especially when she tries to smile, which usually appears less than genuine.

• Rossi's message detailing Gregoire's failures, as well as her tax and spend record, will be relentless. Gregoire has brought us the highest tax increase in state history after promising no new taxes. She waffled on restoring the one percent cap on property taxes, and could opt to raise them in the 2009 legislature if re-elected. She's also blown through the largest surplus the state has ever had — over $1.4 billion — and we could be running a $1 billion plus budget deficit by 2009 (Gregoire's own figures even predict $600+ million). Her failures to deliver on congestion relief, education reform (our children have actually gone backwards) and the fact we have the highest small business failure rate in the nation, are all well-documented facts. Rossi's message about these issues is already resonating well with voters — Republican and Democrat alike. Look for the Rossi campaign to drive these issues home at every opportunity.

• And then there is the voter's sense of fair play — and what happened in 2004. The Secretary of State didn't have a comprehensive statewide voter database in 2004, but does now. Over 176,000 felons, aliens, dead people, and other illegally registered "voters" have been purged from the rolls. This coupled with resolving the ACORN voter fraud situation means the election should be a LOT cleaner than in 2004. And like Rossi himself is fond of saying, "Everyone knows 129 people."

So can Dino Rossi win? Absolutely.

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