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Today was supposed to be the day that Christine Gregoire bounced back.  She fell behind wingnut-in-sheep's-clothing Dino Rossi by 2123 votes after Tuesday's update, but that was a day when nearly all the counties reporting updated tallies were very strongly Republican (most of them east of the Cascades).  On Wednesday, however, almost all of the counties where Gregoire led, including huge King County, were due to report their newly-counted ballots.

Well, it didn't exactly go according to plan.  Oh, the Gregoire counties (except for a couple of small ones) did report their tallies on Wednesday.  In several of them, Gregoire did better in the day's tally than in the previously-recorded totals.  That includes King County, where her support on 59.4% of the 20,839 new ballots was appreciably better than her prior 57.6% of the vote.

Yet, even on this "good day" for Christine Gregoire, she fell farther behind Dino Rossi.  As Wednesday turns into Thursday, the margin stands at 3492 votes in Rossi's favor, some 1369 more than we saw last night.

Assuming that the current county-by-county preferences among Gregoire, Rossi, and Libertarian Ruth Bennett will hold, and assuming that the current estimates of ballots remaining to be tallied are accurate, I've been projecting the governor's race since Monday.  Two nights ago, it looked like a dead heat -- though Gregoire then led by 8736, I saw it ending up with Rossi ahead by an infinitesimal 626 votes.  After Tuesday's updates, with Rossi actually ahead by 2123, my projection showed a 3097-vote Rossi victory.  The current projection, based on Rossi's current lead of 3492 votes in the actual tally, shows a slightly larger advantage for the Republican.  I now put the final margin at 4401 votes.

Through Wednesday, Gregoire holds the lead over Rossi in only seven of Washington's 39 counties.  A day ago, she led in an eighth county.  But Rossi's 222-vote plurality in Wednesday's new count in Grays Harbor County was enough to tip the overall count there ever so slightly (by 165 votes out of almost 33,000 tallied) in his favor.  Gregoire's seven counties, in descending order of her vote percentage, are San Juan 59.6%, Jefferson 57.8%, King (includes Seattle) 57.7%, Thurston (Olympia) 53.2%, Pacific 50.9%, Whatcom 49.8%, and Cowlitz 48.8%.

Now, even winning Democratic candidates don't necessarily win very many counties in Washington.  For instance, John Kerry has the lead in only 12 counties -- Gregoire's plus Grays Harbor, Kitsap (Bremerton), Mason, Pierce (Tacoma), and Snohomish.  Patty Murray leads in 17 counties -- add Clallam, Island, Skagit, Skamania, and Wahkiakam.  All of these counties are west of the Cascades, though even Patty trails in two western counties -- Clark (Vancouver) and Lewis (Fort Lewis).

What's striking about the gubernatorial race is that Gregoire consistently trails most of the Democratic ticket across the board.  Kerry's percentages in Gregoire's seven counties are, in the same order as shown above, 65.2%, 62.1%, 64.7%, 55.5%, 53.4%, 53.0%, 50.8%.  You'd see the same thing if I put Murray's percentages up there.

Even with the biggest (by far) county in the state on her side, only about 37% of the remaining uncounted ballots are in counties where Gregoire leads.  Although her current margin over Rossi in those counties is 56.3%-41.6%, as compared to Rossi's narrower 54.1%-43.7% edge in his counties, his advantage in the number of outstanding ballots makes his lead appear to be increasingly difficult to overcome.

So, where Gregoire leads, she does so by a wider margin than does Rossi in "his" counties.  Also, where Gregoire leads, turnout has thus far been higher than in the Rossi counties (80.0% to 78.6%).  There are simply too many of those Rossi counties.

I won't expound on Gregoire's poorly-designed campaign methodology and political timidity, nor on the well-hidden Dark Side of Dino Rossi.  Much remains to be said about Rossi's stealth campaign; sadly, it looks like we'll have ample opportunity to say it for a while.  

In any case, I really hope these projections turn out to be unfounded.  But it's starting to look more and more difficult to see where Gregoire's catch-up votes are going to come from.  The uncounted provisional ballots might find their way into the final results, and they might break heavily Democratic, but that's a pretty thin thread to hang onto.  I now expect the chilling prospect of Governor Rossi.

Then again, assuming that the three cliffhanger legislative races (49th LD Senate, 26th LD House Position 1, 28th LD House Position 2) all stay on the Democratic side, he'd be faced with a small Democratic edge in the Senate and a solidly Democratic House.  That could minimize the damage he'd like to wreak.  And Maria Cantwell would certainly be happy to see that the most formidable potential challenger for her US Senate seat was already gainfully employed.

Originally posted to Peace Tree Farm on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 01:16 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great analysis (none)
     I'm still really skeptical Rossi is going to maintain his lead, but I don't have any facts or figures to back it up so really it's just wishful thinking. I agree Gregoire ran a pretty poor campaign, but I just don't get why she didn't hold on to more Democrats - did that many of them not care about who won the governorship?
  •  Do you think that Rossi winning (none)
    might make Cantwell even more endangered, since the WAGOP will be emboldened to go after her? Or was Rossi's win just a fluke? I pray that's the case.

    This must be anguishing for Maria. You know that deep down she's probably hoping he beats Gregoire. The saddest part is that a psycho Nazi took Gregoire's place as attorney general, and he and Rossi will team up to make life hell for any progressives in the state.

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