Seattle Weekly: “Republicans Blow It”

I thought I’d provide a link to George Howland’s column in the current Seattle Weekly: “The Republicans Blow It“.

While I personally hold a slightly less cynical view of this election, I thought Howland hit the nail on the head in comparing the strategies that ultimately shaped Christine Gregoire’s victory in the hand recount:

This turnaround wasn’t happenstance. The Democrats played a brilliant endgame, aggressively hunting for votes that had been incorrectly disqualified, while the GOP focused on trying to ferret out fraud that wasn’t evident.

As it so happens, these competing strategies were clearly represented in the blog wars over this election. I embraced the “count every vote” mantra early on, not only because I genuinely believed it the right thing to do, but out of confidence that if we counted every ballot cast by a legally registered voter, Gregoire would surely come out ahead. Meanwhile, our friends over at (un)Sound Politics callously dismissed voters with poorly marked ballots or illegible signatures as unworthy of the franchise… and have instead focused their prodigious efforts on unsound allegations of fraud, corruption and gross incompetence. As Howland points out, these two very different approaches stem from longstanding philosophical differences.

For decades, Democratic electioneering philosophy has been turnout

Stupid, lame-ass polls

The other day I conducted an informal poll of a dozen of the most respected political reporters and columnists in the state. I asked them via email, whether they thought Dino Rossi would eventually contest the election or concede.

The results were informative:

Concede:			1
Contest:			2
On vacation:			4
Declined to participate:	2
Totally ignored me:		3

I think what we learn most from this poll is that journalists have a better benefits package than I do, with a full one third of those surveyed on vacation, while I’m left blogging in the Seattle rain. What we learn about this election is virtually nil.

The same can be said of those stupid, lame-ass internet polls that some people like to point to as valid indicators of public opinion… unless of course they don’t like the results, in which case they’re just stupid, lame-ass internet polls. My personal “favorite” at the moment is The Seattle Times poll that asks “Should we vote again?” I am particularly amused by the ironic result… a 50-50 tie.

Considering the public’s lack of trust in these stupid, lame-ass internet polls, and the extraordinary closeness of the Times survey, I am sending a letter to the Times editorial board asking them to agree to a new poll on the subject. And to give you the opportunity to show your support for a new poll, I have updated my own stupid, lame-ass internet poll to ask the all important question: “Should the Seattle Times conduct a new poll on whether we should vote again?”

CalTech/MIT studies confirm accuracy of hand recounts

FYI… just sent this to my press list:

Contact: David Goldstein


CalTech/MIT studies confirm accuracy of hand recounts

In asking for a new election, Dino Rossi continues to make the unscientific charge that hand recounts are less accurate than machine counts. However, there happens to be quite a bit of research on this topic by the CalTech/MIT Voter Technology Project. []

Of particularly relevance is the published study “Using Recounts to Measure the Accuracy of Vote Tabulations: Evidence from New Hampshire Elections 1946-2002.” [] In this study the authors assert:

“Tabulations may change from the initial count to the recount for a variety of reasons: ballots may be mishandled; machines may have difficulty reading markings; people and machines may make tabulation errors. Because recounts are used to certify the vote, greater effort is taken to arrive at the most accurate accounting of the ballots cast. The initial count of ballots, then is treated as a preliminary count, and the recount as the official.”

In measuring tabulation error rates, the CalTech/MIT investigators clearly start from the assumption that recounts are more accurate because greater care is taken in arriving at the result. The study concludes that recounts should be mandatory whenever the margin of victory falls within 0.5%.

But Mr. Rossi has attacked the integrity of hand counts in particular. The researchers at CalTech/MIT speak directly to that issue in a paper titled “Residual Votes Attributable to Technology: An Assessment of the Reliability of Existing Voting Technology.” []

The “residual voting rate” is considered the primary metric for measuring the relative performance of voting technologies. According to CalTech/MIT:

“Similar jurisdictions using different technologies ought to have the same residual vote rate, on average. By this metric, hand-counted paper ballots and optically scanned ballots have shown the better overall performance than punch cards, lever machines, and electronic voting machines.”

The study finds that punch cards and electronic voting machines have a residual voting rate for president of about 3 percent of all ballots cast, whereas paper and optically scanned ballots produce rates of only 2 percent… “a statistically significant difference of fully one percent.” Indeed, when comparing jurisdictions that have switched from one voting technology to the other, the researchers conclude:

“Paper might even be an improvement over lever machines and scanners.”

The scientific literature clearly supports the notion that hand counts are accurate, and that recounts are more accurate than the initial, preliminary count. For Mr. Rossi to continue to insist that the first count was the most accurate, not only flies in the face of science, but of the clear intent of the governing statutes. It should be remembered that as a state senator, Mr. Rossi voted for an overhaul of RCW Title 29A, that reaffirmed the primacy of hand recounts in determining the outcome of our elections.

I encourage you all to go to the source material and evaluate the research for yourself. I believe you will agree that it is one thing to make specific allegations of fraud and error, and quite another to impugn the integrity our voting system in general.


Gregoire certified governor-elect… right-wing bloggers certifiable

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed today officially certified Democrat Christine Gregoire as governor-elect, declaring her the winner of the closest gubernatorial election in state history. While historical records are incomplete, it is likely the closest gubernatorial race percentage wise, in the nation’s history.

While Republican Dino Rossi continues to call for a new election, claiming the results of a hand recount cannot be trusted, Reed — a two-term Republican — continued to defend the integrity of the electoral process.

“I do not feel like this has been a botched election,” Reed told a news conference. But he said that because it was so close, any error discovered took on great significance.

“I saw serious mistakes being made. I saw them being corrected,” Reed said. “That’s part of the process. The system itself has worked well.”

“Nothing that I have been informed about rises to the level of fraud,” Reed said. “There have been human errors. There have been mistakes. At this time there is nothing that appears fraudulent.”

While Reed defends the integrity of the election, Rossi’s proxies on the right-wing blogs continue to slog innuendo on top of conjecture on top of downright lies, in a concerted effort to undermine public confidence. The accusation du jour is that a “very prominent” King County Democrat is fraudulently registered at an illegal address. I can only assume that the villain’s identity is being withheld as an attempt at political extortion.

I don’t need to provide a link to the blackmailers… you know who I’m talking about.

Gregoire played by the rules… and won

While state Republicans continue to vilify Christine Gregoire for forcing and winning a hand recount, our governor-elect is starting to acquire folk-hero status amongst national Democrats. Writing in The Nation (“Rule One: Count Every Vote“), John Nichols points out that “politics is a game played by rules” and he lauds Gregoire for showing the kind of fight during the recount process that Al Gore and John Kerry failed to muster.

Maybe someday, if the Democrats really want to win the presidency, they will nominate someone like Christine Gregoire. Gregoire is the Washington state attorney general who this year was nominated by Democrats to run for governor of that state. She is hardly a perfect politician — like too many Democrats, she is more of a manager than a visionary; and she is as ideologically drab as Gore or Kerry.

But Gregoire had one thing going for her, and that was her determination to win.

Nichols rightly ridicules Dino Rossi for ridiculing Democratic demands for the “fuller, sounder” manual recount provided by law:

Rossi claimed that Gregoire wanted to count and recount the ballots until she was declared the winner.

In a sense, Rossi was right.

Gregoire did want to keep counting until she won. But, of course, that is the point of the recount process: If you think that the votes are there to assure your victory, you keep demanding that they be counted and tabulated. This is the fundamental rule that neither Gore nor Kerry ever quite got.

Of course, the law also provides that Rossi can contest the election, but thus far he has failed to show convincing evidence of any legal grounds. Indeed at his press conference yesterday, he focused his criticisms on the concept of a hand recount, rather than providing proof of any fraud or error in the actual recount itself. Nichols concludes:

The fight may not be over yet. Rossi is crying foul. But the likelihood is that, in Washington state, the Democrat, not the Republican, will be taking the oath of office in January. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, Christine Gregoire got more votes. Second, she demanded that they be counted.

As I’ve pointed out before, it is ironic that the hand recount that Rossi now attacks was sanctioned by a statute that he voted for. Criticize these rules all you want, but they were Rossi’s rules. Gregoire played by his rules. And she won.

Rossi asks Gregoire for revote… Goldy snickers

At a press conference broadcast live during the local evening news, Dino Rossi read from a letter asking Governor-elect Christine Gregoire to agree to a new election.

What does that tell me? He ain’t got squat.

I have been saying for weeks that the margin of victory in this election is just too far within the margin of error of the voting technologies to confidently determine who really got the most votes. And I find it ironic that Rossi agrees with me… now that he is behind.

Oh, he and his GOP handlers would like you to think that suspicious “voting irregularities” are to blame for the uncertainty, but the truth is… this is simply a damn close election. Fortunately, state statute — a statute Rossi voted for — provides a means of determining the outcome of these damn close elections: the winner of the hand recount wins.

To say now, that we need a new election because the first one was too close, calls into question all close elections. It would be untenable, bad policy.

It is also ironic that Rossi claims his sole purpose of asking for a revote is to restore confidence in the system. How exactly is he restoring confidence in the system, when he’s telling voters the system is so flawed we need to go outside of the system, throw out the results, and hold a new election? And how does repeating the unscientific claim that hand recounts are inaccurate, possibly restore confidence in a system that clearly relies on hand recounts as the most accurate count?

I have never understood Rossi’s reputation as a straight shooter, but if you had any doubts as to whether he is anything more than your typical politician, this performance should put them to rest. Let’s be honest… does anybody really believe that Gregoire is going to join Rossi’s call for a new election? And does anybody actually believe that Rossi thought there was a snowball’s chance she would?

So which is it? Is Rossi stupid? Or was this whole press conference just a transparent PR ploy?

Rossi ain’t got squat, and he knows it.

And I can’t help but think that we’ve just witnessed him filming the first TV commercial of his 2008 gubernatorial campaign.

The Seattle Times has just posted one of those stupid, lame-ass, online polls, asking whether we should have a new election. You must know how much I loathe these worthless things by the way I mock them on my website. But please click on over and vote “No” as many times as you can.

And if you know an easy way of casting multiple votes, please share it with the rest of us. As long as Republicans are going to accuse us of stealing elections, we might as well start with this bogus load of crap.

Rossi to concede?

Washington state media:

Dino Rossi will make a statement to the media this evening at 5:40 PM in the lobby of our campaign headquarters building in Bellevue — 330 112th Ave NE, the “Wallace Properties” building on the corner of 112th NE & NE 4th.

Mary Lane
Communications Director

The statement is timed to be shown live during the local evening news. It doesn’t make sense for him to announce an election contest in this way, at this time, so I’m guessing that if Rossi makes any news at all, this is a concession speech.

KING-5 News reports that Rossi will not concede… today.

Military ballots: lost in the mail, or in partisan politics?

We’ve heard a lot of partisan squawking from Dino Rossi and his paranoid parrots on the right wing blogs, about corrupt Democrats trying to steal the gubernatorial election. And some of it is beginning to cross the line from mean to weird.

Over on (un)Sound Politics, our friend Stefan — angered that Snohomish County won’t deliver its voter registration database in a more convenient file format — has regressed to calling Auditor Bob Terwilliger a “snot nosed jerk.” Meanwhile, co-unSounder Jim Miller continues to calmly push his theory that Democrats stole the election through “distributed vote fraud,” a pseudo-scholarly term (coined by Jim) that relies on the thoroughly insulting premise:

6. Cheaters are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.

Yeah… right, Jim. Way to add to the public debate.

Unfortunately, while both sides focus on partisan spin, we are missing an opportunity to address some bipartisan issues. For example, obscured in all the hyperbole over voter fraud and enhanced ballots, is the longtime problem of disenfranchised overseas military personnel.

As Robert Jamieson points out in his column in today’s Seattle P-I (“In the military, out of the ballot loop“) hundreds of military voters may have received their absentee ballots too late to vote. There was a lot of big talk from Republicans for a couple of days, about protecting the voting rights of our troops, but the issue seems to have been forgotten once the facts inconveniently got in the way of pinning the blame on evil Democrats. According to Jamieson:

The Secretary of State’s Office tells me it hasn’t received even a trickle of complaints. Ballots were mailed out in time — on Oct. 8, more than three weeks before the election.

Delays or snafus could have occurred once the ballots hit the postal network or entered the military mail-handling system, conceded Pamela Floyd, assistant elections director for voter services.

She said military and overseas ballots are not subject to usual postmark rules; the ballots, provided they were signed and dated by Nov. 2, just had to arrive in a county elections office by Nov. 16, the day before certification.

That’s right, despite all the bluster we heard that malfeasance or incompetence on the part of (presumably Democratic) county officials had denied our troops the right to vote, it turns out that ballots statewide were sent out “in time.”

Unfortunately, “in time” isn’t timely enough.

While we certainly need to explore some technological solutions, I’m guessing that if the creative minds in both parties put as much effort into solving this problem as they do into propagandizing it, they just might come up with a simple, immediate fix, like… gee, I don’t know… mailing out the ballots a couple of weeks sooner? Of course, this would require moving our primary from September to the spring — like most of the rest of the nation — a change that has been resisted by legislators on both sides of the aisle.

It may come as quite a surprise to those of us living through the election-that-would-not-die, but a dispassioned (that rules out Stefan) statistical analysis of the error rates will likely show that the procedures in place functioned relatively well. Still, the excruciating closeness and scrutiny of the vote count has clearly uncovered flaws that can and must be fixed.

Ensuring that our military receive their absentee ballots on time should be a noncontroversial addition to the top of our election reform “to do” list. It’s not only the right thing do… we already know how to do it.

GOP fights to count already counted ballots

According to KING5 News, Grays Harbor, Kittitas and Lewis counties have already rejected state GOP requests to reconsider rejected ballots, while the Clark County canvassing board is currently meeting to review the issue. Considering how sloppy the R’s have been in researching these “rejected” ballots, it’s no wonder even all-Republican canvassing boards aren’t taking the request seriously:

The GOP had submitted nine affidavits from voters in Lewis County, who said their votes hadn’t been counted. But late Tuesday morning, Lewis County rejected the Republican request to review those ballots.

The canvassing board determined that five of those nine votes had been counted already. The board voted two to one to refuse to reconsider the other four because it would be expanding the parameters of a recount.

Let’s see now, that’s five of nine “rejected” ballots have already been counted… for a 56 percent error rate. Maybe Stefan will correct me if I’m wrong, but if Chris Vance had been running elections in King County, we can confidently predict that Dino Rossi would have won by approximately 500,000 votes.

The R’s are just going through the motions on this one folks. It’s on to the formal contest.

The AP reports that the Clark County canvassing board has unanimously decided not consider 24 affidavits brought forth by the GOP. No word yet on how many of these were actually from people whose votes weren’t counted.

Also in the news, Christine Gregoire’s lead has dropped to 129, after the Secretary of State’s web site backed out one vote that Thurston County had attempted to add after it had officially certified its results. This is consistent with the SOS guidance that says counties can’t reopen the results once they certify.

Road rage: Rossi may lose state chauffeur

An article by Kenneth Vogel in The Tacoma News Tribune, suggests that Dino Rossi may soon have to give up the perks of office he’s been enjoying since being certified governor-elect after the first recount. [Rossi may have to give up perks of being Gov.-elect]

Since he won the first recount by 42 votes, Rossi has taken four trips on the state plane, he and his family have been chauffeured by a state trooper in a state car, they had state police protection stationed outside their home in Sammamish and his transition team has maintained a taxpayer-funded office in Olympia.


It’s not clear if he’ll be cut off entirely while he contests the election, but once Christine Gregoire is certified the real governor-elect on Dec. 30, Rossi may have to sharpen up his driving skills. Don’t worry Dino… an elephant never forgets.

According to Vogel, Rossi took his family on a tour of the living quarters at the governor’s mansion last Tuesday, which perhaps explains his determination to fight on until the bitter end. Rumor has it his eldest daughter already picked out her bedroom… disappoint a 13-year-old girl, and he may really need the police protection.

Sound Politics Weather Forecast

[I got such a kick out of this comment from Wyethwire, that I thought it deserved its own post.]

SoundPolitics weather forecast for tomorrow:

Seattle has on average 272 rainy days.
To date, there have been 260 rainy days in the Seattle area.

Therefore, we expect it to rain tommorrow, and every day for the rest of the year.
That still leaves eight rainy days unaccounted for.
In keeping with annual rainy days totals in Seattle it should have rained today, and every day last week.

The fact that it did not rain is an anomaly that must be accounted for before I will accept the legitimacy of this climate.

Phone call to God and Mother Nature have gone unreturned.

Mixed messages

The Rossi campaign and their cheerleaders at (un)Sound Politics need to get together and iron out a consistent message. While Rossi spokesperson Mary (Matalin-wannabe) Lane has adopted the Democratic mantra of “Count Every Vote”, the unSounders are warning us that too many votes have already been counted.

The unSounders are at least consistent. They apparently prefer to count votes the way Princeton University plays basketball: score first and then run out the clock.

Okay, maybe that isn’t fair. (To Princeton.) But by consistently arguing for tougher standards on voter registration and signature matching — and by ridiculing the notion that imperfectly marked ballots should be reviewed by humans when they don’t register on machines — the unSounders have made it clear that they believe the risk of fraud far outweighs any harm from voter disenfranchisement. I think it is fair to say that they would like to make it harder to vote. Unless you’re in the military.

The Rossi campaign has been more equivocal. They were apparently comfortable with the standard practice that canvassing decisions not be revisited… at least while Rossi was ahead. But now we’re hearing passionate pleas that a simple signature matching problem (you know… like not having signed one) should not be used to disenfranchise an otherwise legitimate voter.

The problem with a PR campaign that emphasizes these two competing messages — “count every vote” vs. “beware of fraud” — is that they represent two sides of the same cost-benefit equation. Apart from administrative convenience, the only reason King and most other counties adhere to such strict deadlines and signature matching procedures — the reason we require voter registration at all — is to prevent and deter fraudulent votes. To argue that signature matching requirements should now be loosened not only contradicts the Rossi campaign’s prior position, it contradicts the argument that there is a significant risk of fraud. And to argue fraud, undermines GOP efforts to recanvass rejected ballots.

At the risk of providing free advice to the opposition (or of feeding Stefan’s ego), I think the unSounders have the sounder media strategy. Dishonest and deceptive… but strategically sounder. Out of 3 million ballots cast, I’d be surprised if the R’s couldn’t turn up evidence of at least a few suspicious — if not downright fraudulent — votes.

Thus I think we’ll shortly see the GOP give up its quixotic attempt to reopen canvassing decisions on rejected ballots, and instead, narrowly focus their legal and media arguments on voter fraud. They won’t necessarily allege corruption by election officials, but rather, negligence and incompetence that led to widespread voter fraud. And presumably, the argument goes, only Democrats commit voter fraud.

Not that I believe this will carry the day in court. But skillfully argued, the court of public opinion apparently requires a substantially lighter burden of proof.

What does it take to set aside an election?

In Sunday’s Seattle Times, David Postman lays out Dino Rossi’s options in challenging the results of the hand recount in the gubernatorial race. [Votes tallied for governor, but what's next is unclear]

It’s a pretty straightforward discussion, though I do take issue with one very important misstatement. Postman continues to refer to the 735 disputed ballots as “rejected,” but the Supreme Court decision made it clear that these were misfiled ballots that never had their canvassing completed. This is a potentially significant legal distinction.

As to what we can expect from a contest, Postman only cites one example of an election contest that resulted in setting aside the results of an election. This concerned a 1974 Adams County commissioner race, in which the courts determined that a number of ballots had likely been altered between the original count and the recount. I’m not exactly sure if this says anything about our current situation, but I encourage you to read Foulkes v. Hays for yourself before educating me as to your own opinions on the case.

The burden of proof is quite heavy. Rossi would have to find enough errors or fraudulent votes sufficient to change the outcome of the election. 130 errors is not enough — there have to be enough errors to result in a net advantage to Gregoire of 130 votes.

My guess is that if we don’t start hearing soon about some hard evidence of fraud or misconduct, Rossi may skip an election contest, and go straight to federal court. Or, he may just lick his wounds and concede.

No Washington… there is no Santa Claus

I want to wish a “Merry Christmas” to all my Christian friends out there. And to my many half-Christian friends, I wish a “Half-Merry Christmas.” To my “recovering Catholic” friends making their annual tension-filled trip to visit family, I realistically wish a “Tolerable Christmas.” And to my fellow Jews, I wish that movie theaters and chinese restaurants were still half-empty on Christmas day like they always were in the days of my youth back East.

To everybody else… “Happy Saturday!”

And just to prove I can twist nearly any topic into a political debate, I thought I’d relate a true Christmas story.

The other day my seven-year-old daughter — my brilliant and beautiful half-Jewish, half-Irish, shayna colleen — for the first time asked me if I believed in Santa Claus. I honestly replied, “No.”

I then asked her if she believed in Santa Claus, and without hesitation she said that she did. But when I asked her “Why?”, she paused for a moment, rolled her eyes in my direction, and incredulously exclaimed: “Well, your parents wouldn’t lie to you!”

And it occurred to me, that this is a metaphor for public perception over the torturous vote count in the governor’s race: people believe what they want to believe.

The very fact that my daughter asked me my opinion, showed that “the Santa question” had already raised certain logical incongruities not easily reconciled in her seven-year-old mind. And yet, she has chosen to believe two equally unlikely premises, that A) a magical fat man squeezes down her chimney to deliver presents on Christmas morning, and B) that her parents never lie to her.

Her suspension of disbelief is all the more remarkable considering that not only did her parents contradict each other on the question of Santa’s existence, but that neither one of us actually has a chimney that would lead Santa anywhere, but to a painful death in a fiery home furnace.

Now compare that to the many Dino Rossi supporters who passionately believe that the gubernatorial election was “stolen” by corrupt King County Democrats.

We are told that Democrats shamefully abused their 2-1 majority on the canvassing board to add, subtract and divine just enough votes to give Christine Gregoire the victory. And yet, the lone Republican on the three-member panel has publicly vouched for the integrity of the process, pointing out that all but 20 of the 1600 ballots before them were decided unanimously, and that he was not always on the losing side of those few split decisions.

We are told that King County Democrats cynically changed the rules of the recount by adding to “the universe of ballots.” And yet Rossi himself gained votes from hundreds of new ballots added in counties he won, while the Supreme Court, the Republican Secretary of State, the Republican King County Prosecutor, and Democratic and Republican county auditors from throughout the state have all affirmed that all these ballots were counted according to the long-standing rules.

And we are told that — as usual — the Democrats have stolen this election by fraudulently counting illegal votes. And yet despite all the insinuation and innuendo, the Republican Party has not set forth a single scrap of evidence of a single fraudulent vote. Whether these baseless allegations come directly from his mouth or not, Rossi has clearly sanctioned a dishonest and disgusting PR campaign cleverly devised to force upon Democrats the impossible task of proving a negative in the court of public opinion.

Now I totally empathize with Republican anger and disappointment… and even their suspicions. They truly believe that Rossi was by far the better candidate for the office, and thus they must find it incomprehensible that Gregoire could legitimately secure a majority of the votes, however slim. And what could be more frustrating than to believe that you have won, only to see victory slip away in the final days of the final recount?

But just because your party leaders tell you that Democrats are all a bunch of liars and thieves who would do anything to hold onto power — and just because it may be comforting to believe this in your moment of political grief — doesn’t make it true.

The truth is, parents sometimes lie to their children. Sometimes because we believe it is best for them, and sometimes out of, um… administrative convenience. And the truth is, politicians — or at least their spokespeople — sometimes lie to their supporters.

Now I’m not saying that Democrats aren’t just as likely to believe what they want to believe. But when the Rossi campaign tells us that when all the legitimate votes are counted, when the law is applied equally, when the corruption is uncovered, and the fraudulent ballots cast aside, that Dino Rossi will be governor… it is the political equivalent of telling us that there is a Santa Claus.

Believe it if you want, if that’s what makes you feel better. But it doesn’t make it true.

Is Chris Vance the “New Eyman”…?

Political insiders are speculating that after his razor-thin loss in the governor’s race, Dino Rossi will turn his sights to Maria Cantwell’s US Senate seat in 2006. Indeed, Cantwell’s staff is already gearing up for a Rossi challenge, and promises to respond with a tougher campaign than Rossi faced from Christine Gregoire.

But I’m not so certain “Rossi for US Senate” is such a sure thing. Rossi has young children, and a move to the other Washington would be more than a little disruptive. Plus, I’ve always suspected that George Nethercutt’s failed senate campaign was a trial run to build up statewide name recognition — he would have been foolish to relinquish his cozy congressional seat without being promised a shot at Cantwell if he lost to Murray. (And besides, I couldn’t help but think those odd kibitzing-with-the-wife ads were more the opening of the ’06 campaign than the close of the ’04 one.)

But there’s another reason to suspect that Rossi may not be the anointed challenger in ’06… word has it that the anointer himself is quietly exploring a run of his own.

Of course, I’m talking about our state’s second-best-known lying, hypocritical loudmouth… Chris Vance. And with his hyperbolic performance during the protracted recount melodrama, the GOPolitburo Chair is poised to seize the top loudmouth spot from long-time champion, Tim Eyman.

Washington state is cursed with some of the nation’s most boring politicians: for every Jim McDermott there seem to be a hundred Gary Lockes. And into this void stepped Eyman, blithely spewing pithy, mean-spirited soundbites, unhindered by constituency or decorum… or the truth.

But with Tim’s political relevance shrinking faster than Alice down the rabbit-hole, Vance has exploited the election controversy to fill the vacuum with his own Eymanesque, anti-government rhetoric. And the media has rewarded him with the kind of news coverage any ambitious politician would die for. There are winners and losers in every election, but in this race, Chris Vance appears to be both.

While our friend Timmy would never run for elected office (he couldn’t afford the pay cut,) Vance has not abandoned his personal, political ambitions. Thrust upon a statewide (and national) stage, he appears intent on making the most of it. And what could be more enticing to an ambitious politician than a coveted seat in the US Senate?

Dino Rossi has gained nearly as much statewide name recognition from the recount as he did from the campaign itself, but in the self-promotion game, Vance has placed a very close second. While Rossi has struggled to maintain a mild-mannered, statesmanlike mien, Vance has hardened the hearts of the party faithful with his fiery accusations of Democratic corruption and his blithe, Orwellian doublespeak. If as the commentators on the right-wing blogs suggest, the battle-cry for WA Republicans should be “Throw the crooks out!”, then who better to represent this party-of-the-wronged against Cantwell than the man who refused to surrender in the face of all odds, all obstacles and all reason?

In an election contest, whatever it might do to the perceived integrity of the system, and whatever the result… Chris Vance figures that he will come out a winner. Any media attention is good attention; that’s the first page from the Tim Eyman playbook.

But Dino Rossi may not fare so well. He has surely benefited from the perception — misguided as it may be — that he was the “legitimate” winner after two counts, and Democrats were poor losers in seeking a third. But with every passing day that Gregoire holds the mantle of Governor-elect, this perception fades and the roles reverse. And should he drag this election through the courts, yet fail to prove the so-far-unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and corruption, any good will he has wrongly earned thus far by playing the martyr, will evaporate beneath the glaring spotlight of media scrutiny.

It is ironic then, that the man who most strongly urges Rossi to pursue this contest to the bitter end is the man who stands to gain the most by either victory or defeat. Should Rossi, against all odds, overturn this election, then Vance would have eliminated his most formidable opponent for the ’06 nomination. But should this gambit fail, as it most surely will, then Rossi will emerge politically diminished — a bitter, recalcitrant loser — a weakened rival to the firebrand Vance for the hearts of the party faithful.

I understand if Dino Rossi is gravely disappointed — indeed, suspicious — at his sudden reversal of fortune. But when he takes council from the likes of Chris Vance, he should take care to consider whether he is being asked to sacrifice his own ambitions, for the ambitions of others.