One can make a strong argument that over the past six years, Attorney General Rob McKenna has proven the most adept politician in Washington state. Cautious, pandering and downright relentless in his pursuit of publicity, McKenna has simultaneously managed to privately court far-right, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-choice forces while successfully maintaining a public persona as one of those mythical “moderate” Republicans. Yet as tight a rope as he’s had to balance, I’d never seen him slip.
For a politician presumed to be running for governor in 2012, McKenna’s participation in a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of health care reform seems baffling on its face, especially considering its stature as little more than a legal stunt. McKenna’s electoral strength is that, unlike most Republicans, he doesn’t do too badly in King County, winning it by a comfortable margin in 2008, and losing by less than 5 points in the much more closely contested contest from 2004. That, combined with nearly guaranteed landslide Republican margins in Central and Eastern Washington has made him the putative favorite in the 2012 gubernatorial race against nearly any Democratic opponent.
As long as McKenna maintains his moderate facade — and you know damn well the Seattle Times will do everything in its power to help him out in this regard — he’s damn hard to beat. So why would McKenna so very publicly throw in his lot with with Tenthers and Teabaggers and other far-right-wingers of that ilk?
The only thing I can think of, other than a hard night of drinking or a minor stroke, is to better position himself for a tough primary battle. And the only Republican in Washington state with the stature to keep McKenna off the November 2012 ballot is Dino Rossi.
So that begs the question: does Rob McKenna know something we don’t know? Is Rossi planning yet another run for the governor’s mansion? And has Rossi privately made his intentions clear?
I posed my theory to a handful of Republican lawmakers who were willing to talk with me — off the record — and while none had any first-hand knowledge of Rossi’s intentions, all seemed equally baffled by McKenna’s lawsuit. “This has gotta hurt Rob in King County,” one fellow GOPer told me, lamenting the damage to McKenna’s gubernatorial ambitions.
Yeah… no shit, Sherlock.
So the question remains, why? McKenna’s not stupid, so why would he risk alienating King County moderates for the sake of shoring up his support amongst the Teabagger/Tenther crowd? A stroke of political genius, or just your run-of-the-mill stroke?
Over 5,800 6,100 Washington citizens have already joined the Washington Tax Payers OPT OUT of Rob McKenna’s Lawsuit Facebook group in less than 24 hours. Wow.