I spent a few days out in Washington state this week talking to a pretty broad group of conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians. One thing that’s really clear (to me at least): The governor’s race out there deserves a lot more attention (and resources) than it’s been getting. Rob McKenna, the state attorney general, is in a neck-and-neck fight for the governor’s mansion. I heard McKenna speak at a small event back in July, and I was impressed. He’s a smart, capable, and accomplished public servant. He’s by no means a hardcore conservative type, but like Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he’s probably the very best Republicans can hope for. And that’s more than good enough. As with many moderate conservative governors, a governor McKenna would amount to a huge step forward. As has happened in New Jersey with Governor Christie and in Michigan with Governor Snyder, there’s just an enormous amount of easy stuff that could be done in a first term that would make conservatives very happy and would still be very popular with independents and moderate Democrats. For people outside the state, the reason this race is so important is that if the Democratic machine wins again, Washington state will probably go permanently blue and become a Pacific coast Massachusetts (that, at least, seems to be the consensus among most of the folks I talked to). But if a conservative reformer gets in there, his successes could have a profound teaching effect and roll back a lot of the accumulated mess. Obviously, even if McKenna wins the state will still be liberal but the GOP will have a fighting chance there going forward.