Friday, October 31, 2008

Reservations on Rossi

So many people have been talking politics on their blogs, that once I delivered my recommendations, I felt I could coast for a while. But there are a couple things that I still need to work out of my system before Tuesday.

And one of them is Dino Rossi, Republican/GOP candidate for governor.

When this blog was in its early days, Mr. Rossi provided good content, both with the razor-thin margin of his loss and with the massive, overblown lawsuit that followed. And now here it is four years later, and we're back to the same battle with the same candidates. A do-over. Sort of like if Gore ignored all those people calling to "Move On" and decided to run again in 2004. Not that there is anything really wrong with a rematch (Darcy Burner is making her second run for Dave Reichert's seat), but you expect to that the candidate has improved over the interim.

From what I have seen in the Rossi-Gregoire race, I'm not convinced. I think Mr. Rossi run a very slick campaign, as he has before, which hinges on a couple things, and may yet see him victory. But if anything, I've got more reservations now than I did four years back. Here are the high points:

Different messages for different audiences: To Washington East of the Cascades and the redder rural areas, the Rossi message has been one of bitterness and resentment - "Don't let Seattle Steal THIS election" announce the angry billboards. In the Puget Sound region, it is all about "Change", trying to hook his wagon to the Obama campaign. "He's for change and so am I!" says the technicolor message board in Fife. In general, the Rossi campaign has been much more willing to embrace the Democratic presidential candidate than the Republican one, if that will get more votes. Which brings me to -

Running under the Radar: We mentioned earlier about the Rossi campaign using the "Prefers GOP" tag to put some additional distance between himself and the national train wreck his party has become. And indeed, in a tight election, a few confused voters might make a difference. If that doesn't work, he may very well run next time as a Whig. And he'd still do pretty well, because of -

Friends with Deep Pockets: The BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington) is one of the state's most powerful sources of political funding and Rossi's sugar daddy, to the tune of over 7 million bucks. Impressive (and it might be more - the cash flow seems a little dodgy here). That's a lot of money for a campaign, and could take a good dent out of the impending budgetary shortfall that should hit in two years. We should save the BIAW's number and hit them up for a loan, if we need it.

[Digression- Just to be straightforward on this, the BIAW spreads a lot of cash around in elections on both sides of the political fence - what do they want out of the deal? There's a good article here. The short form - they want lower taxes and few regulations for their members, the housing developers. Who would pick up the slack? That would be ... you.]

Controlling the Message: Questions that Mr. Rossi does not wish to answer do not get answered. Information that Mr. Rossi does not wish to share is not distributed. Reporters that Mr. Rossi does not care for are not admitted to press conferences. That makes getting the message out much easier, particularly if the media you are favoring includes conservative-friendly operations like the Times. But a friendly media is only helpful if you are -

Being Technically Legal: This is a big one. The Rossi campaign and its supporting operations patrol the grey areas of the law with ruthless precision.
Here's an example - the candidates' sources of income. The current governor shared all her tax forms. The Rossi camp, instead, delivered the minimum as required by law and not a comma more. Legally, he was not obligated to, so those interested could just go pound sand.
Here's another: A foot-dragging Mr. Rossi this week had to give a deposition about his fund-raising for the BIAW. His argument is that he was not a candidate at the time he was raising huge amounts of money for a group that would then invest heavily in his campaign once he DID become a candidate (again). Now frankly, I think he has a point (that is, it's a lame and relatively toothless law if it can be circumvented is such a brazen manner), but this seems to be a hallmark for the campaign. That which is not expressly demanded is optional. That which is not expressly forbidden is permitted.

So from all this I get an idea of how Mr. Rossi would govern. More stonewalling than is found in a backyard English garden. Eager to obey the absolute minimum as required by law. In the pocket of a major, major donor. Limited communication. The transparency of a cinder block.

And I think that all this is the big reason I can get comfortable with Darcy Burner in her second run and not Dino Rossi. Burner spent her enforced time-off coming up with plans and positions and reasons to vote for her. If anything, she's grown on me and reassured me as to her intentions. Rossi played games with our election laws and has sewn resentment and confusion in his wake. And while a Rossi Governership might make for more stirring headlines and funnier blogging, I would prefer my elected officials to be more competent than entertaining.

Really, I'm good. I don't need new material.

More later,