Back in June of 2005, before most Washington voters knew his name, Strategic Vision showed Mike McGavick trailing Sen. Maria Cantwell 50% to 36% in their first head to head poll. By August 2005, McGavick had climbed to 38%. Fifteen months and untold millions later, McGavick has finally reached the magic 39% mark.
Hmm. These are Will Baker numbers — barely a few points higher than my dog would get merely by putting an “R” next to her name on the ballot. I mean, damn… even Richard Pope managed to get 44% of the vote this year. (Keep your spirits up Richard, maybe tenth time’s the charm.)
Not that this was much of a surprise, as McGavick never managed to gain any traction. Even when a couple polls briefly showed the margin closing this summer, it was solely due to Cantwell’s numbers coming down, while McGavick continued to bump his head on the low 40’s.
Why? Well yeah, there was that big blue wave thing — but McGavick was always a sucky candidate running a sucky campaign, and a quick scan through my previous posts suggests he never really had a chance, whatever the political climate.
Take a look. I come off as a pretty smart guy:
April 19, 2005, on reports that Mike McGavick, Rick White and Chris Vance were all scrambling to get Karl Rove’s endorsement:
I’m not really concerned which of the three
the votersRove ultimately chooses, as it’s hard to take seriously a field that includes Vance as a viable candidate. I’ll be the first to admit that Cantwell is no Patty Murray, and should be vulnerable… but if these crappy candidates are the best the state GOPKarl Rove can come up with, it’s gonna be a cakewalk.
I just don’t think defeating Cantwell will be as easy as the Republican faithful think it will. Apart from Rossi, all other GOP hopefuls trailed Cantwell by double digits in a recent Republican poll… and after a slow start, the Senator now reports a $3 million head start in her campaign account. And it doesn’t really matter who the GOP throws up against her, if she’s smart, Cantwell herself will all but ignore her opponent, choosing to run against Frist, DeLay, Rove, Bush and the right-wing Republican hegemony in DC.
It is true that Cantwell has not been the most visible of senators… mostly because she is simply a policy wonk, genuinely uncomfortable with shameless self-promotion. She is also a true moderate on most issues, and as such simply can’t generate exciting headlines like some of her more liberal (and, um… media savvy) colleagues. But her moderate politics and understated style work both ways, making her very difficult to attack. As tough as it is for Cantwell to generate real passion within some progressives, it will be equally tough for her opponent to generate passion against her, outside of the core Republican base.
Democrats will rally to Cantwell because they understand what is at stake nationally, and WA’s moderates and independents who gave both Patty Murray and John Kerry decisive victories last November, will need to be given a good reason to dump Cantwell in 2006.
I’m not sure a multimillionaire Safeco CEO can give them that reason.
It’s hard to imagine how the Republicans are going to present a multi-millionaire insurance company executive who proudly advocates shipping jobs overseas, as a “man of the people.” But you know they’re going to try.
I hear some righties snidely claim that they’re going to force Cantwell to run on her record. Well I hate to burst their bubble, but McGavick has a record too, and it ain’t gonna look so pretty by the time November, 2006 comes around.
I continue to wonder if McGavick, a man with a long record as an insurance industry lobbyist and executive is really the right person to run in WA state against Cantwell, a successful executive herself? Do Rove and Dole and the NRSC strategists really understand Washington state? As one Republican consultant suggests, maybe not.
“What people think in the Beltway and what goes on back home are two different things, and there’s a disconnect there.”
Hmm… the same kind of disconnect that labeled the politically diminutive George Nethercutt a “giant killer”…?
The GOP had counted on an unpopular Cantwell being an easy target, but now it seems clear that McGavick is not only going to have to sell himself to WA voters, he’s going to have to make a strong case for tossing out Cantwell as well. And with Bush’s approval ratings in the toilet, and the GOP leadership not far behind, it’s gonna be pretty tough making the argument that we need to give the president one more Republican vote in the Senate.
Perhaps this partially explains why his fellow Republicans aren’t lining up to challenge McGavick for the nomination?
December 15, 2005, on Sen. Cantwell’s rising approval numbers:
There was a time when state R’s expected the national party to pour lavish sums into this race, but it’s beginning to look like that money would be better spent defending Representatives Dave Reichert and Cathy McMorris.
The problem for McGavick is that contrary to popular belief, Christian conservative voter turnout can be pretty soft, especially when the Republican candidate gives them little to get excited about. And as much as McGavick needs to draw votes from Dems and independents, he also needs a strong showing from the GOP base.
March 2, 2006, on McGavick’s announcement that “civility” would be a central theme of his campaign: