Saturday, December 19, 2009

No so much a leftist rejection (and not so tough terrain) in the WA3

Clark County Politics and Politico (and I'm sure tons of people in the next few months will do the same) dusted off the election results from last month to predict a Democratic loser in the open WA3 race. It seems like a good strategy, but it appears to me that saying that an approval of I-1033 and a rejection of R-71 doesn't necessarily predict a loss for a Democrat next November.

Here's why.

The last time there was an open seat in the WA3, Brian Baird beat state Rep. Don Benton 55 to 45 percent (Baird pulling down 49k in Clark County, Benton 46k). If the logic that CCP holds was true back then, WA3 voters, and Clark County voters in particular, should have approved some liberal ballot measures in 1997/98.

Well, turns out that didn't happen. Turns out the WA3 voters seemed more conservative back then then they are now.

In 1997, voters in the counties that make up the 3rd (couldn't hit it on the nose) rejected a measure that would have given homosexuals workplace protections. Anyone would admit that this measure was considerably more limited in scope that this year's. But, it actually did worse in 1997 than the more broader measure this year (44 in 1997 to 47 approval in 2009).

By the way, here are my calculations, the data is of course from the Secretary of State's office.

A year after Baird was elected, the voters in the counties that make up the 3rd (again, not exactly the same) approved Tim Eyman's first anti-tax initiative I-695 with a whopping 61 percent. Ten years later I-1033 barely skates by in the 3rd with a 50.27% yes vote.

Not exactly a conservative mandate, and not a good way to explain how a conservative will win in 2010. If Brian Baird was able to beat Don Benton with similar ballot measure results reflecting an even more conservative WA3 in the late 90s, a Democrat should actually have a better time this time around.

But, I don't think there's any connection between ballot measures and congressional elections, and here's why:

Measures are a statewide vote and congressional campaigns are regional. This matters in the sense of where a particular campaign will spend its money. A campaign for or against a ballot measure will seem to spend t.v. money where its most needed, Seattle and Spokane (where the people are) and the Tri-Cities (probably because its pretty cheap).

One of the places where they won't is in the Portland market because its expensive to spend there and you're spending on very few of the Washington residents in the SW corner of the state who make up that particular market.

And, that's exactly what No on 1033 did last year. That campaign spent money on television advertising in every part of the state, except where it would reach voters in Brian Baird's district. Negative advertising in ballot measure elections tends to convince people to vote no as a safe alternative.

So, if the I-1033 campaign had given SW Washington (and therefore the 3rd) the attention it had given the rest of the state, that measure would probably have failed there too.

Hardly a "leftist rejection in the 3rd."

1 comment:

Matthew Green said...

Excellent point. On several local and regional blogs, people are pointing to R-77 and I-1033 as proof that the 3rd District is far right and any Democrat is doomed. They are, of course, wrong. I hope their attitude doesn't deflect energy from winning this seat, even winning it with a progressive Democrat.