I’ve read a number of analyses attempting to explain Gov. Chris Gregoire’s decisive, 8-point victory over Dino Rossi in what has long been heralded as a nail-biter of a race, and I find it curious that everybody seems to miss the obvious: voters were largely satisfied with the Governor’s job performance during her first four years in office.
Everybody was so focused on casting this race as a rematch of 2004’s virtual tie, that they seemed to ignore the dramatically different circumstances. Four years ago this was a race for an open seat, pitting two contrasting personalities against each year. The state decidedly leans Democratic, but Rossi came off as more personable, while an over-confident Gregoire campaign failed to challenge the Republican’s vague mask of moderation. Meanwhile, Rossi’s “she’s too liberal,” “she’s gonna raise your taxes,” “she’s an Olympia insider” attacks resonated enough to make Gregoire appear a risky choice to many crucial swing voters.
But over the past four years Washington voters have come to know Gov. Gregoire… not as well as they should have, but well enough. And as it so happens, it turned out she wasn’t too liberal, she didn’t ignore Eastern Washington, and apart from the gas and estate taxes—both approved overwhelmingly at the polls—Gregoire didn’t raise our taxes.
Fear of the unknown is a powerful force, but this time around Gregoire was known… and she just didn’t come off as all that scary, no matter how many times that asshole pitchman poured gasoline on a flaming stack of money.
This isn’t rocket science. This was a referendum on the Governor’s job performance. And on that measure, Gregoire won hands down, increasing her margins in 30 of 39 counties.
Of course, the strategy and execution of the two campaigns also came into play, as did various other external factors, and I’ll have more to say on that a little later. But with even the post-election analysis of Gregoire’s own campaign manager failing to mention Gregoire’s job performance as a critical factor, I just wanted to give a little credit where credit was due.
For all our differences on policy and strategy, and there are more than a few, Chris Gregoire has proven herself to be an excellent governor… and in reelecting her, our state’s electorate has proven itself to be an excellent judge of both character and competence.