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We now know the outcome, more or less, of the Washington State US Senate race—and it looks like it’s going to be Patty Murray, D-(Actual No-Kidding Progressive), over Dino Rossi, R-(Guy Who Will Be Running Again For Something As Soon As He Can).

Murray managed to win in a State that is far more "purple" than you might think, in a vote-by-mail election that guarantees at least a few days of uncertainty.

You have to do some unusual math to figure out how these elections will go, and we’re going to walk through how this race got called by NBC just a couple hours ago.

So here’s what we do know: if you want to win an election in Washington, you basically have to carry some combination of King (Seattle, and Washington’s most populous, and liberal, county), Pierce (Tacoma, and Seattle’s southern suburbs, with a significant military population), Snohomish (Everett, and Seattle’s northern suburbs, also with a Navy population), Clark (Vancouver, and the northern suburbs of Portland, Oregon), Kitsap (home to a Naval Shipyard, an aircraft carrier homeport, and nuclear missile submarines), Whatcom (Bellingham, a college town and almost a suburb of Vancouver, British  Columbia), and Spokane (the largest in very super conservative Eastern Washington) Counties.

You also need to know that Washington is a virtually 100% vote-by-mail state, and that votes in the mail with an Election Day postmark, no matter when they arrive, are valid votes.

There was an amazing amount of anti-Murray advertising, most of it in the form of secret money coming from either the US Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove’s various groups; the basic themes of the ads suggested Murray caused all the unemployment and debt ever experienced in American history and couldn’t wait to make things worse.

Pro-Murray ads centered on her...well, her Progressive record—and her ability to bring jobs to the State...and that message was being transmitted in a State with high unemployment.

And as we’ll see, all of this created exceptionally high voter turnouts, particularly for midterm elections.

Now let’s do some electoral math:

We can look at the Secretary of State’s handy website and see just what’s arrived so far; it typically updates each day from here on out at 4:30 PM Pacific time, but there may be additional updates each day.

As of 7:30PM, November 4th, which is the most current update I have available, Murray is up by 45,000 and change with roughly 1.85 million votes counted so far.

But what we really need to know is: how many votes are there still to be counted?

The site has a county-by-county page that reports about 617,000 ballots are "on hand to be processed"...but that won’t include those that are still in the mail. We’ll talk more about them later.

Right now the largest concentrations of "on hand" ballots are, predictably in King (270,000), Pierce (30,000), Kitsap (29,000), Snohomish (88,000), and Spokane (65,000) Counties.

Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce Counties are running about 50-50 so far, and that means nothing is likely to happen in those counties that will change the outcome in any significant way, so we will put them aside for this analysis.

King County is running almost 65-35% Murray, and Spokane County is running 56-44% Rossi, so that’s where we turn for the rest of our analysis.

Now what we need to know is how many votes have yet to arrive in the mail, and the way we do that is to look at potential levels of voter turnout.


It works like this: King County has almost 1.1 million registered voters, 500,000 have already been counted, and 270,000 are waiting to be counted—and that’s 70% turnout, if no other votes arrive.

It’s pretty rare to see 70% + turnouts in midterms, but we’re already there, so let’s assume turnouts of 75% and 80%. At 75% that means 55,000 more votes are coming, at 80% 110,000. Add all the uncounted votes up, assume the current 65-35 distribution of votes holds up, and that suggests her margin, at those turnout levels, would grow by some number between 211,250-247,000 votes. If no more votes arrive, her margin should grow by 189,000 votes.

Spokane County has 260,000 registered voters, with about 120,000 ballots counted and 65,000 more sitting in trays not yet counted. That’s a 70.5% turnout, again, a remarkable result for a midterm, and, as we mentioned, they are voting for Rossi, 56-44%. Let’s again model for 75% and 80%; we would expect 15,000 or 23,000 more in the mail from those outcomes.

I also looked at every county with more than 5000 votes left to be counted. Those that are on the east side of the State are consistently 65-35% Rossi, Western Washington counties are running more or less 50-50, but they are mostly going to Murray.

And guess what? If I’m any good at arithmetic, Spokane County doesn’t have enough votes to get Rossi over the top, even if you get 80% turnout and 100% of all currently uncounted votes go for Rossi...and I think that means we can call this one for Murray by about 210,000 at 75% turnout in those two counties, minus any other result in the State, which are not going to be enough to swing the tide.

As I’m finishing this up, NBC is also calling for Murray.

So there you go...a good Progressive wins, with extraordinary turnouts in a year when other candidates had lots of their base stay home, and despite a massive "secret money" campaign for Rossi, courtesy of Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce.

And just to make it even sweeter: she ran her campaign fully embracing her record, and standing up for her tough votes. She didn’t pander conservative, and her progressive voter base stood up and got her over the top.

That’s a message the Evan Bayhs of the world did not learn—and it’s a message Members of Congress...and a certain President...ought to learn, and fast, if they want to win in 2012.

Originally posted to fake consultant on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:35 PM PDT.


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Comment Preferences

  •  you can win being progressive... (13+ / 0-)

    ...and voters will turn out for you, big-time, if you do it.

    democrats...are you listening?

    "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

    by fake consultant on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:35:01 PM PDT

  •  Rossi conceded. (6+ / 0-)

    From the intro in your diary, you don't seem to know that yet.  Good analysis, though.

    We need to teach people that the environment has a direct bearing on our own benefit. Dalai Lama

    by maggiejean on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:48:20 PM PDT

  •  The attacks intensified towards the end (6+ / 0-)

    of the campaign - and voters started breaking for the Dems in higher percentages as the attack intensified. It would seem that the barrage of negative advertising backfired in this case.

    Vampire Girl by Zoltan Abraham - Look for it on

    by Zoltan on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:56:16 PM PDT

    •  i've seen this before... (5+ / 0-)

      ...and i've seen candidates do very well as the electorate gets more and more suspicious as the ads multiply--and it looks like that happened in california as well, in both the senate and governor's races.

      "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

      by fake consultant on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:04:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Patty ran attack ads too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fake consultant, kyril

      (Or someone else ran them on her behalf; I confess I don't remember whether the "I approved this ad" tag line appeared in the negative ads agains Rossi.) She had some great positive ones -- I especially loved the ad about supporting vets that she was running a few weeks ago -- but to suggest that this was a case of all positivity all the time vs. slimy bad attack ads is really not true or fair.

      And the creepiest attack ad I saw against Murray -- the one where tennis-shoe clad feet were walking over the backs of a bunch of innocent Washingtonians -- was not aired by Rossi, but by Karl Rove's shadow RNC.

      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:34:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  murray did indeed run attack ads... (0+ / 0-)

        ...including this one...

        ...and if i gave the impression that sweetness and light beat darth vader and the evil empire...that's only about 25% true.

        even murray's attack ads tended to be "reality-based", and for me, that's an appropriate component of a two-part winning strategy if you're running for office: part one, truthfully explain why the other candidate sucks, part two, truthfully explain why you don't.

        "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

        by fake consultant on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 04:42:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Tuesday night by about 10pm it was (5+ / 0-)

    clear that Rossi had lost. The math was not there for a path to victory. Patty was ahead and King County still had a massive volume of votes to count. His team was hoping that the negative ads would increase his percentages in the late votes - but instead, Murray's percentages increased.

    Vampire Girl by Zoltan Abraham - Look for it on

    by Zoltan on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:58:55 PM PDT

    •  i could not believe... (5+ / 0-)

      ...the turnout numbers, and as i looked today (king county uncounteds grew from about 170,000 to 270,000 overnight) it really became evident that this was over.

      i did a similar analysis of r-71, and having been through the exercise a couple of times now it seems as though guessing how the mail-in counts will go is getting a bit easier.

      "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

      by fake consultant on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:07:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Murray also didnt run away from that (8+ / 0-)

    "certain president" you talk about.

    •  that is a fact... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, lams712, maggiejean

      ...and i hope our guy on pennslyvania avenue sees that doing right by your base can get your base to do right by you.

      "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

      by fake consultant on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:28:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Patty publically embraced Obama & his policies! (3+ / 0-)

        Absolutely Patty showed strength vs hiding from her president and his accomplishments. The chicken littles who ran away are ones who mostly lost.

      •  Hello? That so-called "base" you speak of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fake consultant

        that feels that the President hasn't "done right by them" supported Murray, who embraced Obama's policies.  Murray even ran on the fact that "I not only supported the health bill, I helped write it", which the so-called "base" of which you speak dismiss as a sellout at best and "shit sandwich" at worst.  If Obama didn't do right by those folks, then neither did Murray.

        The fact is that the REAL base supported Murray and supported her embrace of the President and rewarded her for that.  The malcontents of which you speak aren't the real base.  That canard has always amused me, that folks whose votes you can't count on, that turn their backs on you at any disagreement, and have a history of "punishing" you by voting for symbolic unelectable 3rd party candidates in close races are "the base" of the party.  Those folks ain't the base.  They're a group of individuals that exist on either of the extremes of a party's political spectrum, but they aren't the "base".

        •  true and not true. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zack from the SFV

          when it comes time to doorbell and donate those folks--on both sides--have been among the first and most willing to get really involved.

          i saw it in the edwards volunteers, howard dean saw the same thing, and so did obama.

          jane hamsher is one of those folks.

          and thanks to the "50 state strategy" and obama's '08 effort to engage millions of new voters, many of these "malcontents" were supposed to become the new base.

          (keep this in mind as we go along: those are not democrats voting for obama, those are obama voters only...unless they become democrats.)

          imagine you're nike: you've created a brand, and now you've drawn in lots of new customers who want to associate with your brand, and now they don't see themselves as associated with the brand as they were a couple years ago.

          if you don't want adidas to win, you better find a way to bond with those new customers, and a lot of the '08 obama voters (not democrats, obama voters) don't feel bound any more.

          this isn't just the same folks who get upset every election: it was also folks who we brought into the process who no longer see value in the process.

          that's a much different problem than what you're describing, and to me it's a lot more serious.

          "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

          by fake consultant on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 05:09:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  It was gratifying for me to (8+ / 0-)

    see Reid and Murray run on their record of supporting Obama.

    We need to teach people that the environment has a direct bearing on our own benefit. Dalai Lama

    by maggiejean on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:15:15 PM PDT

  •  It's hard to draw a lesson from just one race (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fake consultant

    Yes, I tried to do it in a recent diary, but still.  You could credibly counter-argue, after all, that Murray barely won in a state that's broadly Democratic, and that it was only a race because she tied herself to Obama.  It's just too dicey when your sample is 1.

    Overall, though, looking at the balance of the evidence, I think you're right.  In Wisconsin, another broadly Democratic state, Feingold maintained his distance from Obama and the party as a whole, and lost to an objectively weak opponent.  Sestak's final push emphasized his independence and he lost to a zealot with no prior demonstrated ability to appeal to non-zealots--again, in a state with a substantial Democratic majority (albeit a partially spurious one, since a lot of indies registered Dem in 2008 to vote in the primary, as many of them against Obama as for him).

    The missing link in the stand-by-Obama strategy, though, was Obama himself.  He isn't a great advocate for his own policies.  He's inordinately proud of the fairly sophomoric "D is drive, R is reverse" line, for one thing.  

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 04:44:58 AM PDT

    •  true dat... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV, Rich in PA

      ...except that washington is surprisingly less "broadly democratic" than you might think.

      king county is even capable of going purple, as the eastern suburbs can readily balance out seattle's voting. for example, i live in eastern king county, and, in contrast to liberal democrat jim mcdermott of seattle, i get the literally brain-damaged republican dave reichert.

      (i'm being unnecessarily cruel, however, when i reference reichert's head injury, as it doesn't seem to have made him any more useless than he was before the if that were possible.)

      eastern washington, about 1/3 of the population, went 65-35% rossi, and that's where "doc" hastings unseated tom foley back in the day. (hastings will likely be the new house natural resources committee chair; you can expect joe barton and hastings to have a grand old time fundraisng among energy companies together.)

      except for king county, most western washington counties are also quite purple, as murray's results in this cycle demonstrate.

      king county democratic turnout, and tons of it, may be the real story of this election. (i think king county could go above 75% easily, and 80% is probably a 35% probability, based on my wild guess.)

      "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

      by fake consultant on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 05:28:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You can win by being genuine. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fake consultant

    I'm glad Murray won, especially because she is a good progressive.  More than anything, I think most voters just want someone who stands for something.  Murray has a voting record from which she didn't flee at the first sign of opposition.  

    I know there are places where progressive ideals don't sell as well, but sometimes people will vote for a candidate they don't agree with simply because they know that person stands for something.  I don't think the GOP got so many votes for their ideas.  After all, they really have none.  They got votes because they appeared to stand on some firm principles.  (Of course, we saw last night that that 'stand' isn't quite as firm as people thought.  Didn't take DeMint long to say he'd raise the debt ceiling, or the GOP establishment to blow off Bachmann.  I may have to stock up on popcorn - and I don't even really like popcorn!)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 06:33:09 AM PDT

    •  i think you really just nailed... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...the problem for republicans: the gulf between what their voters "know" about them and what they're about to do.

      of course, the problem for so many democrats is pointing out, before the election, that that gulf will exist after the election.

      "...this election has never been about me. it's about you."--barack obama

      by fake consultant on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 07:14:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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