Has Dino Rossi been radicalized?

It sometimes seems like Dino Rossi has been running a nonstop campaign for more than six years now, so it’s easy to understand why journalists and voters alike feel that we know the man so well. Too well, perhaps.

But in light of his hard, rightward veer in recent weeks, it is past time for all of us to question whether this is really the same Dino Rossi who ran such a strategically bland, blank-slate campaign back in 2004, or whether Rossi circa 2010 is an entirely different beast? You know, is he just saying and doing the crazy righty things he thinks he needs to do to win the election… or, has Dino Rossi been radicalized?

No Republican can win statewide in Democratic-leaning Washington by running an aggressively conservative campaign (see John Carlson and Ellen Craswell), a fact Rossi knows damn well. Indeed his nearly successful, 2004 tabula rossi strategy has been a model for Washington state and local Republicans ever since.

The trick is not simply to run to the middle, but to run away from the very notions of ideology and partisanship in an effort to snare independents and soft Dems; this can prove an especially effective contrast in a state like Washington where the Democratic base is so proudly partisan, a trait that can admittedly turn off both swing voters and the press. It is this strategy that Rob McKenna effectively executed against Deborah Senn in 2004, and that led Dan Satterberg to victory against Bill Sherman in the 2007 race for King County Prosecuting Attorney.

Of course, this strategy is not without its dangers or its nuance. The candidate who fails to strongly define himself risks being defined by his opponent (Susan Hutchison and David Irons come to mind). Meanwhile, Mike McGavick’s clever twist of attempting to use Cantwell’s very effort to brand him as a wedge against her in his battle to win swing voters, while brilliant, backfired spectacularly. Still, Democrats hold a substantial edge in Washington state, so a Republican’s gotta do what a Republican’s gotta do.

But in 2010, not Dino Rossi.

The same candidate who used to shrug off questions about reproductive rights by quipping that he’s not running for Supreme Court, now seems eager to take the lead on a number of very conservative, very partisan, very Republican issues. Let’s be clear: there’s a difference between opposing the health care reform bill as passed, and signing on to the Tea Party’s “Contract From America” that pledges to “Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care,” (presumably, including Medicare). And there’s a huge difference between saying that he wouldn’t have voted for the recent Wall Street reform package as is, and being the first senatorial candidate in the nation to pledge to repeal it.

Rossi’s more aggressively conservative posture has not only won him millions of dollars from Wall Street, the insurance industry and the usual corporatist suspects, it’s also earned him endorsements from far-right-wing lions like Sen. Jim DeMint, FreedomWorks, and Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council. Does Rossi, like Perkins, consider “homosexuality, bi-sexuality and transgenderism” not to be “acceptable alternative lifestyles or sexual ‘preferences.’ “…? And if so, how will that play with the vast majority of Washington voters on both sides of the political spectrum who believe that what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is nobody’s goddamn business?

It’s a curious strategy for Rossi to take, one which our media has thus far appeared to mostly brush off with their usual “politicians say the darnedest things” attitude, but at some point, shouldn’t we start taking Dino Rossi at his word? When, like fellow Republicans Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, his rhetoric proves to be counterproductive, shouldn’t we reasonably question whether his public proclamations represent the real Rossi, rather than just a political misstep?

In fact, the radicalization of Dino Rossi is nothing new, and is part of the reason why he lost by 200,000 votes in 2008 rather than 129. Rossi was clearly embittered by the 2004 election, and it came through in 2008. He proved an angrier, less likable candidate the second time around, but more importantly, one much more eager to embrace divisive, partisan issues. For example, the 2004 Rossi never would have publicly spoken in favor of cutting the minimum wage, but the 2008 Rossi couldn’t help himself.

Yeah sure, blame a lack of message discipline if you want, but don’t forget to question where this lack of discipline comes from: Rossi’s understandable resentment over his (misguided) belief that crooked Democrats stole the 2004 election. The 2008 Rossi proved a more stridently partisan candidate than voters saw in 2004, and the 2010 Rossi is proving more partisan still. Democrats aren’t mere opponents anymore; we and our policies are “the greatest threat” to the American dream. Thus for Rossi, this no longer a battle for the electoral middle, but rather a battle between saints and sinners, good versus evil.

Exactly the kinda rhetoric one might expect from a radicalized Dino Rossi.

Comments

  1. 3

    sarge spews:

    There are two elections. Ballots just got mailed for the 1st one. Rossi is trying to get to the final round. If he does, he’ll moderate, and pretend to be in favor of reforming health care and wall street, and then explain the flaws in the existing legislation that require them to be replaced by something better.

  2. 4

    spews:

    Has Dino Rossi been radicalized?

    For the primary I guess to bleed off Didier support.

    And after that he’ll soften just a bit but he’ll still do the angry male act never referring to Murray by name (my opponent, the incumbent) and try to win by locking up the angry male and angry/fearful women vote.

    i.e. the economy’s crap and it’s because there’s a darker-skinned guy in the White House. Failed right wing economic policies of the last 30 years? What’s that?

    For the sake of the future of this State and the country Rossi must fail.

  3. 5

    Rujax! spews:

    What if the Dino-Sore sees the amount of attention and $$$ the half-term gov is getting…accurately sizes up the depth of the Republican bench, and sez…

    “Sheeee-iiiittt…I’m smarter than that Palin bitch; I won’t even have to be ELECTED and I can make BANK off these fools!!!”

    Nice.

  4. 6

    Michael spews:

    @5

    “Sheeee-iiiittt…I’m smarter than that Palin bitch; I won’t even have to be ELECTED and I can make BANK off these fools!!!”

    I’m under the impression that that’s what Dino’s up too.

  5. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    The P.I. is reporting that Akers is dropping out, “teaming up” with Didier (whatever that means). Both are attacking Rossi as much as they are attacking Murray, arguing that a vote for Rossi isn’t that much more different than a vote for Murray.

    It appears that Rossi is now considering Didier a credible threat, forcing him to publically take some positions favorable to the right wing in order to make sure he gets past the primary. Those positions may come back to haunt him in the November elections.

    And today even Rasmussen said that Murray was leading all potential Republican challengers, including Rossi, by at least two points. Considering that Rasmussen leans to the right, that’s not good news for Rossi.

  6. 8

    LaborGoon spews:

    If this Rossi is more radical than the old one, I’d hate to hear his position now on the minimum wage. And what about other bread-and-butter issues like cutting Social Security and Medicare? Who among our ever-shrinking pool of fawning political reporters is going to make Rossi stray from his talking points (even he sounds bored with them already) long enough to say what he would really do as Senator?

    If it happens, we’ll all learn that his plan is basically to cut people’s wages and benefits, make it easier to ship American jobs overseas, and tell people that they need to “reset” their expectations regarding prospects for retirement, home ownership, getting a college education, etc.

  7. 10

    Odie Cologne spews:

    Rossi is a self important political sociopath with no agenda other than promoting his own self interest. The rightward swing is merely to steal Didlers thunder, and if it works and Rossi places in the primary, he will once again assume the sphinxlike mien of the tabula rossi.

  8. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 “If this Rossi is more radical than the old one, I’d hate to hear his position now on the minimum wage.”

    He’s for repealing the 13th Amendment but doesn’t want to say so just yet.

  9. 12

    Sam Adams spews:

    “He’s for repealing the 13th Amendment but doesn’t want to say so just yet.”

    And your proof is?

  10. 13

    Gerald spews:

    I agree Goldy. I’ve noticed he is not really playing to win.

    My own hypothesis is that he knows a win is unlikely so he’s looking for future job prospects or future book deals.

    It’s funny to think about as a three time loser, but he could even be considering national politics (like future political appointments if a R wins the white house in 2012).

    I don’t think he even wants to win. He used a cost/benefit analysis and somehow found out he would gain something more by running and losing then not running at all.

  11. 14

    spews:

    Gerald @13:

    I don’t think he even wants to win. He used a cost/benefit analysis and somehow found out he would gain something more by running and losing then not running at all.

    Next stop, Dino The Huckster.

    Mr. Mover is probably a good businessman, who realizes that putting your trademark in front of 3.5 million Washingtonians (twice, in the Voter Guide and on the ballot) is very well worth the $1740 filing fee.

  12. 15

    Odie Cologne spews:

    re 12: The proof is that he’s against financial reform. Debt is slavery — and Rossi wants you in debt.

  13. 16

    Sam Adams spews:

    @15

    That ISN’T proof he wants to repeal the 13th Amendment.

    IMO: BOTH parties SUCK at what they call “financial reform.”

    That being said, Slavery and Financial Policy are different things.

    Isn’t debt usually voluntary?
    Slavery?

  14. 17

    Ekim spews:

    @16, “Isn’t debt usually voluntary?”

    *A recent study says 62% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were caused by medical bills. I guess you could say these people went into debt voluntarily. I mean, really, they could have chosen death with dignity instead running up those bills.

    Same study says only 8% of all bankruptcies in 1981 were caused by medical bills.

    *American Journal of Medicine

  15. 18

    Salsamanca spews:

    His campaign is more like a business opportunity. He’s been running for office so long I don’t think he could win in any race. The real mystery is why the Republicans didn’t look for a decent candidate. One without all the baggage.

  16. 19

    Helen spews:

    Have to agree that what he’s really worried about is being out-RIGHTed by the Tea Party’s Didier. Once he sews up the wingnuts, he’ll most likely swoop back toward the center to try to NOT repeat his mistakes of 2008. Because the wingnuts will have nowhere else to go, he assumes.