July 09, 2006
McGavick v. Cantwell: Current State of the Race

Is Maria Cantwell in trouble, or is she not?

As David Postman reports, Cantwell helped herself over the weekend by getting her highest profile Democratic opponent, Mark Wilson, to drop out of the primary and endorse her. Of course, one vocal critic, Hong Tran, remains, as does Libertarian Bruce Guthrie, and perhaps Green Party candidate Aaron Dixon, both of whose issues appeal to disillusioned liberals.

Yet, that story is but one wave against a rising tide of negative coverage of the Cantwell campaign, ranging from the AP's David Ammons, to the PI's Joel Connelly, to the Seattle Weekly, to the Stranger. The theme of the coverage is overwhelmingly bad, describing a listless Cantwell campaign coupled with a surging effort by a formidable Mike McGavick.

Those stories are interesting, mostly because the similarity of the themes reveals something is clearly amiss in Cantwell country. But what exactly?

Here's some insight, first from former Cantwell staffer Mike Seely. This of course is a gem of a piece, confirming virtually every rumor I heard while working on Slade Gorton's staff in 2000, but doesn't necessarily offer great insight into this year's dynamics. Until this and this from the Respectfully Republican blog. In a nutshell, assuming his research is correct, Respectfully came across a personal web-posting from a disgruntled Cantwell campaign staffer that implies a not-so-stellar work environment at Cantwell HQ (fair warning: the 2nd link includes a screen capture of the post in question, which includes one of the seven dirty words, for those so offended). This later tale is both consistent with Seely's column, and with the general product coming from the Cantwell campaign as of late.

One might say this is nothing but salacious gossip. If this were the only sign of malcontent I would agree. But, my knowledge of such campaigns from working on them, and knowing well many others who have done so at length, tells me the totality of all these negative stories about the state of the Cantwell campaign means something.

I don't like to make predictions about election outcomes, and won't start now. But my gut, based on experience and analyzing the available information, is that the Cantwell campaign is adrift, without the kind of leadership one needs in an unexpectedly competitive race. If that's correct, they have two bad choices: a) soldier on with a weaker team than desired, or b) shakeup the staff, with all the resulting bad PR that will accompany such a move this late in a major statewide race (and yes, July is a pretty mature point in a campaign like this).

But, before all the pro-McGavick readers get too excited, keep in mind Cantwell still has a pretty good pile of campaign cash. I fully expect her campaign to ramp up by the August Senate recess at the latest, probably including pro-Cantwell ads from her campaign, and anti-McGavick ads likely paid for the by the state Democratic party (with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee kicking in with ugly ads after the primary). And that doesn't even include piling on from assorted "interest groups." The ads will be nasty, they'll hit below the belt, and there will be a lot of them. "Mike McGavick wants your grandmother to die in poverty, Mike McGavick spray paints old-growth forests, Mike McGavick hates your dog," etc., etc.

The amazing thing is, I'm not sure if those ads will stick. I fully expected McGavick to be a credible challenger and run a very good campaign, but he and his team have well exceeded my expectations. Those attack ads will hurt a bit, but given the general public grumpiness about public officials, over-the-top negative ads against him might just solidify his image as the civil, problem solver, standing above the fray. Given all the talk about this being a Democratic year, it's amazing we can even consider that.

Posted by Eric Earling at July 09, 2006 09:40 PM | Email This
1. Interesting. There were similar rumors and stories from Kerry campaign staffers in 2004. The truth is that Cantwell never really has been much of anything. Most likely, it was just fancy footwork in King County Elections that got her into her office in the first place.

Cantwell has shoved higher gas prices and gas taxes down the public's throat, blamed the war and Bush for oil prices, etc. But she's also worked to stop every effort of ANWR drilling that might be a step towards easing our dependence on foreign oil.

Her positions don't add up, her election was suspect, she's uninspiring, rumored to be rude and tought to work for, and she's got a strong challenger.

Oh how do you solve a problem like Maria?

Posted by: Jeff B. on July 9, 2006 10:32 PM
2. Great update on the race, Eric. Cantwell's clearly treading water; her supporters claim she's too busy being a Senator to kick the campaign into high-gear. Enter Mark Wilson...I sense a "healing tour" coming on, how about you? Maybe Cantwell's mom will join Wilson on the trail, you know to keep an eye on him.

Next to the imminent barrage of campaign ads, I think the latest shenanigans surrounding Wilson will be a memorable campaign moment. Wilson is already proving himself a campaign liability to Cantwell, saying her position on the war had "evolved"; of course he was prodded back when Cantwell tempered that by saying her position hadn't changed, but only recently been "clarified". Come on now Mark, dammit, stick to the talking points or they'll jerk your salary! What a slime-ball.

Posted by: Patrick on July 9, 2006 11:58 PM
3. I think the angle about KCE probably 'getting Maria in' ought to be played up more. Now that everyone knows what a farce KCE is, and gets reminded of the circumstances of her 'election', people will not be happy about that, and they'll seek justice, just as they're itching to do for Dino.

Posted by: Misty on July 10, 2006 12:02 AM
4. The only thing Maria has going for her is KCE. Even without the two top paid KCE offices being filled, she still will get her fix from KCE.

Posted by: GS on July 10, 2006 12:34 AM
5. I couldn't have said it better than Jeff B. In a face off Ms. Cantwell, without the 'fancy footwork' in King County, would go down in flames.

Posted by: Olympia Blizzard on July 10, 2006 06:41 AM
6. I think the angle about KCE probably 'getting Maria in' ought to be played up more...

I disagree... if folks start playing the "She/KCE stole the election" bit, it may sound to voters too much like "Bush stole Florida/Ohio" and turn them away from Mcgavick. As likely as it probably happened, there is no way to prove the KCE stole the election for her, and between the left screaming about Florida and Ohio and KCE botching the governer's race, I think voters are probably burnt out hearing about "stolen" elections. Besides, at this point it's kind of irrelevent as far as her re-election is concerned, and smells too much of "Sore/Loserman". Better to focus on how bad her policies are and how ineffective she is than open old wounds from 2000.

Posted by: Mike H on July 10, 2006 07:06 AM
7. Bottom line for me is that the State needs at least one Republican Senator since the Senate is controlled by the Rs.

Gorton was fatigued, he was battling Indian money and Cantwell had beaucoup bucks and used them on TV ads. She came out of nowhere just based on those ads. That was the last time. Now, I have Cantwell fatigue.

Posted by: swatter on July 10, 2006 07:14 AM
8. I noticed a scattering of big Red McGavick signs along I-5 north; I don't recall any Gorton signs; seems there is more energy in the McGavick campaign.

Posted by: swatter on July 10, 2006 07:26 AM
9. Oops!! I want to say Gorton signs six years ago; not today.

Posted by: swatter on July 10, 2006 08:19 AM
10. I agree with mike. We need to just keep on chugging with the McGavick campaign, helping out as best we can and keeping pressure on KCE to keep this election clean.

Posted by: TrueSoldier on July 10, 2006 09:18 AM
11. Gorton lost for three reasons: Cantwell's (unreported) bank money; some Libertarian was in the mix sucking off votes from Gorton; and KCE pulled 4000+ special ballots out of the bag at the last minute --

Posted by: Lew on July 10, 2006 09:42 AM
12. "Is Maria Cantwell in trouble, or is she not?"

Rhetorical question, no? Cantwell is still the same Cantwell who could not pull off a re-election in the house. Up the ante in a Senate race and the pressures on a less than solid candidate multiply like germ-ettes in a Petri dish.

I'd like to say that she's a moonbat in sheep's clothing, but I can't. It's worse than that. She's an opportunistic politico harridan. She wants to be someone, and her concern is about doing ill-defined stuff, rather than having a clear, concise, and compelling agenda. A la HRC.

Which see.

I remember her being variously described in '00 as young, energetic, idealistic and attractive. 'spose as a contrast to Slade. Haven't heard very much of that drivel as of late.

Any day we can expect news of an HRC/Cantwell makeover, putting out a corrupted version of still another conservative position. Charter schools, but under the state department of education, for example. Appear to do something important while ratcheting up the lib control of such things tighter and tighter.

Posted by: scott158 on July 10, 2006 09:49 AM
13. All these comments about KCE possibly manipulating the 2000 election and nothing about the Libertarian who ran against Gorton in 2000 and gathered 60,000 votes statewide?

Opinions vary, but most analysts I've talked with believe the Libertarian vote would generally split 2:1 Republican if there were no Libertarian candidate running, with a significant minority not voting at all.

If Slade needed 2,100 more votes, I suspect they were cast for the L candidate.

And there's a Libertarian running again this year. Beware.

Posted by: Hoplophile on July 10, 2006 09:50 AM
14. "Opinions vary, but most analysts I've talked with believe the Libertarian vote would generally split 2:1 Republican if there were no Libertarian candidate running, with a significant minority not voting at all."

Spot on, Hoplophile. Classic Libertarian voters are generally people who are much more conservative leaning yet are fine with things like gay marriage, abortion, etc that are classicly NOT indicative of most party line Republican voters. When Libertarians show up, they take away far more votes from the Republican than the Democrat. It's just the way it is.

Posted by: ferrous on July 10, 2006 10:04 AM
15. Yep, McGavick sure is surging. From 40% in April to 40% in June.

It is surges like this that gave us Gov. Carlson and Craswell and Sen. Smith.

Posted by: JDB on July 10, 2006 10:07 AM
16. Hoplophile and ferrous:

I don't know who your advisors are, but the prevailing belief that Libertarians take more from Republicans than from Democrats is not proven here in Washington.

When you look at the returns for the 2004 governor's race you will see that the Libertarian did clearly better in Democratic districts than she did in Republican districts. And it stands to reason - her central campaign theme was marriage equality. If she had appealed to Republicans the opposite would be true.

As for the now infamous 2000 election the very same statistics show up. The Libertarian did better in the Democratic districts than in the Republican districts. There, the candidate's main theme was medical marijuana. Sorry to pop anybody's balloon, but Jared did not cause Gorton to lose; rather, he reduced Cantwell's margin of victory.

You need to recognize that the state Libertarian Party is will aware of the prevailing myth that they take more votes from Rs than from Ds. However, as I have described, its own analysis is exactly the opposite.

Of what possible benefit would it be to the LP to perpetuate the myth that it is merely a Republican clone?

Now, take a look at the Guthrie site. www.bruceguthrie.com. See if you can find anything on it that even suggests a right leaning campaign.

Now, ask yourselves, what if this is true? What if Guthrie could take more votes from Cantwell than from McGavick? What then?

Posted by: Richard Shepard on July 10, 2006 11:14 AM
17. Re: Hong Tran, D challenger to Cantwell, the linked story states:
"Tran has some first-hand experience with the ravages of war. As an 8-year-old girl, she and her family fled South Vietnam in 1975 as Communist forces closed in on Saigon.

Iraq already is in the throes of a civil war, Tran said. Withdrawing American troops cannot make the situation any worse, she said."

One would think that having experienced the results of a previous anti-war movement which caused the US to pull out of SE Asia, leaving thousands to flee and millions to die in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Hong Tran would have more sympathy for the people of Iraq who will suffer the same if we withdraw.

Some people can't understand history, even if they lived it. So sad.

Posted by: Ann In Issaquah on July 10, 2006 11:18 AM
18. Ok Richard. Let's check it out, shall we?

1. Iraq War - Bruce wants immediate withdrawal. (Sorry, that made me giggle.) That's a Libertarian idea as it's an isolationist standpoint. Republicans are for keeping the military volunteer which he also states he's in favor of. It's Dems that claim we need to get the draft going again (probably as more fear mongering than anything). However, WRT getting the Iraqis to the point where they feel comfortable, elected Republicans AND Democrats are a lot more often in support of that. Even the Democrats who mention getting troops out often end up back tracking or turning schizo on that point when pinned down by different groups.

2. Ending PATRIOT Act stuff - Democrats overwhelmingly voted WITH Republicans to keep that in place. This is NOT a Democrat v. Republican issue. This is a moonbat v. living in reality issue. And, when you think about what Libertarians classicly stand for, they are all about having government completely out of everyones lives. Which is that more likely to fit as a general political philosophy? If you answered Republican, you win a prize.

3. He wants people to have choices in health care - Guess what? SO DO REPUBLICANS!!!!!!!!!!! What in the heck do you think the whole Pres. Bush driven plan towards HSAs is all about??? And contrary to the panick stricken attitudes of feminist moonbats, Republicans are not, in fact, trying to take away a woman's right to kill her unborn baby. They are, instead, trying to put sensible ethical limits on it. I'm seeing a lot more in common with Republicans in this whole area than Democrats.

4. Support of gay marriage - that's just classic Libertarian attitude of keep the government out of our lives type of thing. Thing is, what they don't realize is that by having the government even say that it is specifically sanctioned, the government is, in fact, meddling with individual people's lives. But hey, Libertarians are not particularly logical.

5. Lower budget deficits - anyone who is brutally honest with him/herself should recognize that even though Republicans are spending willy nilly in DC, changing to Democrats means far and away more spending! Democrats lament that not enough is spent on education yet we are spending vastly more than ever before in our nation's history. Check out FactCheck in 2004. It's all there. So, once again, Libertarians are a lot closer to Republicans than Democrats there too.

6. Social Security reform - Um, yeah. Who's been pushing for this? Republicans. Who's been blocking it and scare mongering on this point? Democrats. 'Nuff said.

Down the line, Richard, this guy Guthrie is a heck of a lot closer to Republicans overall than he is to Democrats. And another thing you should take into account is that there are conservatives who live in very blue counties. I'd say a great number of posters to Sound Politics fit that as they live mostly in King County. To suggest predictive voting in the case of the 2 horse race on those lines either means you think that people just kneejerking don't care about issues and hate Republicans or that you grossly underestimate the number of conservatives who could be heard if Libertarians weren't confusing everything.

Posted by: ferrous on July 10, 2006 01:42 PM
19. An excellent assessment of the race that has been picked up by several national blogs appears at West Sound Politics - a fairly new blog dealing a lot with Kitsap County.

The URL is http://westsoundpolitics.blogspot.com/2006/06/how-vulnerable-is-maria-cantwell.html

Posted by: Denise Norman on July 10, 2006 04:28 PM
20. Re: Wilson-Cantwell:

She made him an offer, he gave her his honor.
And all through the night it was honor and offer.

Whoever said politicians make strange bedfellows got it right.

Posted by: Organization Man on July 10, 2006 06:07 PM
21. If voters really cared about the things they say they care about, not only Cantwell's campaign would be in trouble, but McGavick's as well. Do most voters even know or care that Cantwell supports the war in Iraq? Do they understand that her crude attempts to control oil prices totally contradicted her supposed support for protecting the environment? As for McGavick, he seems as about as interesting and original as a W clone.
Want some real change? Look to the alternatives:
Hong Tran (D)
Bruce Guthrie (L)
Aaron Dixon (G)
All are more interesting choices...

Posted by: Gene Hawkridge on July 10, 2006 07:01 PM
22. Gene Hawkloogie,

If voters listened to and actually beleived the things you say about McGavick, Washington State would be in trouble. Luckily they are not that stupid.
Cantwell doesn't support the war in Iraq, you are a liar like all of your cadre of liberal fools.

Cantwell's crude and idiotic attempts to control oil prices was stupid, inconsistent with any rational logic, and contrary to fundamental economic principles and it didn't contradict her support for protecting the environment in any way. It also failed because it was as moronic as was your half-assed defense of her.

As for McGavick, he seems like a clone to you because you have the integrity and depth of a slug. But alas, you are a liberal Democrat, so you can call yourself a "good" slug. McGavick can be proud to have your silly contempt.

Posted by: Amused by liberals on July 10, 2006 08:50 PM
23. Ferrous:

Go ahead. Spin it as you like. As you would have it Guthrie is either a Republican or a fool. Or are they the same thing?

And as for whether the Ls hurt the Ds or the Rs more, we have 4 months to find out, don't we? Remember my website, so you can post me your apologies.

Posted by: Richard Shepard on July 10, 2006 10:55 PM
24. Guthrie is a fool. Anyone who thinks the Libertarians have a serious chance at winning federal or even high state office is deluding themselves, IMO. LOL!

Posted by: ferrous on July 11, 2006 08:37 AM
25. Also, Richard, I see you're a lawyer. I work for Preston Gates & Ellis. Heard of it? *wink*

Posted by: ferrous on July 11, 2006 08:40 AM
26. Ferrous:

Sure I know who PG&E are. They spent somewhere around $600,000 to kill the blanket primary, representing the DEMOCRATS! About a third of that money was spent on so-called expert testimony that was ultimately ruled either incompetent or irrelevant.

As for Guthrie, winning isn't everything. Really. If you have trouble understanding why, take a look at this: http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/othervoices/story/5926436p-5230086c.html

Posted by: Richard Shepard on July 12, 2006 07:48 AM
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