The Campaign Spot

Dino Demonstrates Bedrock of Support in Washington Primary

Last night in Washington, Dino Rossi became the GOP’s Senate nominee against incumbent Democrat Patty Murray.

Democrats may attempt to crow that Murray, as of this hour, received 440,034 votes, and Rossi only 323,803 votes.

But overall, Republicans had 474,893 votes; Democrats had 463,276, and that’s including the 4,398 votes for “Mike the Mover” and 3,363 for “goodspaceguy.”

On paper, last night was another case of a Palin-endorsed candidate failing to win a primary, but I think it’s safe to say Sarah Palin wasn’t trying to play it safe by endorsing Clint Didier. Washington doesn’t seem like the kind of state where a Palin endorsement would be decisive, either. Her choices don’t always line up with those of other conservatives; Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Rossi.

Further down the ticket, Jaime Herrera beat David Catillo for the GOP nomination in the 3rd district’s open-seat race.

UPDATE: A GOP county chair weighs in:

The Senate numbers fell out just about as I thought they would, Didier was never going to come that close. The total of Republican votes is very close to the total of Democrat votes, so this is going to be pretty close in the fall, even with a Republican tsunami, but I think Rossi will come out ahead by 2 or 3 points or more.

The take-away is that Republicans are in excellent shape to win WA-03, and in good shape to retire Patty Murray (I’m also hopeful about WA-02).  We have some work to do to make sure the conservative wing/Tea Party groups are solidly on board.  It is frustrating because both Rossi and Herrera are conservative Republicans who would likely score a 90 ACU rating, and are campaigning sounding like they’d score a 95.  Their defeated opponents, lacking any legislative record, were free to campaign as 100% conservatives and paint the winners as establishment sell-out RINOs.  There are some of these Hedrick/Castillo/Didier/Akers supporters who will drop out, refusing to “compromise their principles.”  I’m hopeful that enough will stay in to make this a great November.

Also, note this typically fascinating observation from Sean Trende:

Washington State employed a “blanket primary” from 1935 through 2002, and again starting in 2008, which allows all candidates to run on the same ballot. Voters, regardless of party affiliation, can choose any candidate, and the top two candidates advance to the general election.

And, it turns out, these primary elections end up looking an awful lot like the November elections. I gathered the results for congressional and senate primaries in recent years where Washington used the blanket primary system (1992-2002 and 2008). This gave me a nice dataset of 65 elections. I looked at the total Democratic vote cast in the primaries, and compared it to the total Democratic vote in the general election.

On average, the Democratic candidate improved his or her share of the vote by only 1.5 points from the fall election. And there aren’t too many outliers. In 47 percent of the elections, the Democratic share of the vote in November was within two points of the Democratic share of the vote in the primary (for those who speak “geek,” the standard deviation is a reasonably narrow 4.2).

Give Patty Murray another 1.5 percent, and she would finish with 47.6 percent — a lot, and perhaps enough to squeak by if there are enough third-party votes. But it’s easy to see her losing with less than 48 percent, too.


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