Saturday, October 04, 2008

Driving through the state and being heartened

The holiday drive was lovely. Pictures will be forthcoming. But one thing that we didn't capture in pictures was a bit of a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

Washington is often described as a divided state. The Puget Sound area is the most populous section. It is also more liberal leaning that most of the rest of the state (exceptions being Bellingham, north of Seattle; a tiny corner of the southeast section near Washington State University; and the area around Vancouver, Washington - south, near Portland, Oregon). When a populist politician on the right wants to bash the liberals she usually chooses to bash Seattle as the figurehead of liberal politics here. Indeed, the Seattle area is much more progressive than even other liberal areas of the state, so it's a good target. But things are always more complicated than that. For instance, Bellevue, until recently, was historically conservative. In fact, it still is considered conservative, but looks like it might flip to Democrats in the near future (if not this election, then perhaps the next). Microsoft's hiring has changed the demographics in the area greatly, yet one should note that even so Microsoft employs a fair number of conservatives. Again, it's not so easy.

Outside of the Puget Sound region the state is mostly conservative. I recall that during the last gubernatorial election that side of the state was covered with signs urging the election of Dino Rossi, the Republican. In fact, Rossi almost won that election. In the first counts he did win the election, but the Democrats sued and in the recount by hand Chris Gregoire won the race by under 500 votes. To this day there's a good number of people who grouse that she stole the election. I've heard a lot of people tell me that they can't wait to vote her ass out of office.

The trouble is for those people that Gregoire has been a pretty good governor. Sure, she passed through some major Democratic priorities, but the most costly of those benefited schools. She's also been very good at bringing opposing sides of an issue to the table and hammering out a compromise. When flooding hit Central Washington this past year Gregoire's government received high praise from conservatives over it's response. Still, these accomplishments and more will not quell the naysayers who feel that their vote was unjustly nullified.

The polls said that Gregoire held a 15% lead over the summer. That was cut recently to 7%. Given the amount of bitching I heard at the store over the past couple of years and the fact that the state is looking at a $3.2 billion deficit next biennium (our budgets are 2 years in length), I expected to see a ton of Rossi signs again. What I found actually surprised me. Yes, there were a number of Rossi signs, usually coupled with McCain/Palin signs. However, I also saw a large number of Gregoire signs and they were always coupled with Obama/Biden signs. I saw more signs supporting the Democratic candidates for office than I have ever seen on that side of the state. And it wasn't just in medium sized communities or those known for their liberal leanings. Rather, I saw them all over and everywhere.

My take on it is this - it won't just be the Puget Sound area that goes heavy for Obama. He's going to receive a lot of support from elsewhere in this state. McCain might still take those eastern regions, but it's going to be close. Rossi? He should throw in the towel, now. There was too much support for Gregoire out there. She's going to carry the traditional liberal areas and she's going to eat into his traditional base in a big way. The whole trip made me feel much better about the upcoming election day. If Obama/Biden can carry that much influence and make people that excited in areas of this state that are very conservative, then they are probably doing the same throughout the country and that bodes well for those of us who want to see them elected.

It also helps explain why McCain pulled out of Michigan this week. He's losing independents and he's bleeding from his base as well.

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