WA-08: My Two Cents

There’s been a lot of online sadness in the blogosphere over Darcy Burner’s concession in the race in Washington’s Eighth District, as well there should be. In any other district, I don’t think I’d feel compelled to write add one more post-mortem, but my two cents might actually be worth three or four cents, seeing as how I spend a big part of my time in this district (I live in Seattle, but I spend eight hours a day slaving over a hot computer in Bellevue).

One of the main contentions that I’ve seen elsewhere is that the Seattle Times threw the election with its last minute hit piece on Burner’s academic credentials. While it was pretty lazy, poorly researched journalism and it certainly didn’t help Burner’s cause (although their subsequent follow-up article about Reichert’s own rather underwhelming academic background may actually have helped her), I can’t see this having turned the election. In my gut, it seems more like something that turned quickly into the usual ‘he said, she said’ noise that dominates horse-race coverage and riles up the partisans but whooshes right past low-information voters. It may have been the decisive moment for a few undecideds, but I can’t see it making 8,000 votes worth of difference.

Beyond my gut, there’s also the matter that the numbers for this race right now are almost identical to those from two years ago (51.5-48.5) despite the injection of a lot more voters in a presidential year. It doesn’t seem like the needle moved much over two years… which to me suggests that the ‘lack of [elective] experience’ meme, which did Burner in last time, continued to be top-of-mind. There’s also the matter of polls: the one poll that had trendlines representing both before and after the Seattle Times story, the Daily Kos-sponsored Research 2000 poll, gave Reichert an 8-pt lead before the story and found the race a tie after. (Granted, there was an economic crisis somewhere in there too, so there may have been competing currents at work.) Finally, in my own experience phonebanking in the days before the election, I never ran into anyone who said the degree flap was an issue (although in comments mcjoan claims to have experienced it a lot, so your mileage may vary).

More over the flip…

One other sentiment I saw a lot in comments on this race is that it’s just a hard district for Democrats. Again, I’d have to disagree with that; it’s a D+2.3 district, and as we saw a few days ago, this is the fourth most Democratic-leaning district in the country that still has a Republican representative. What we have here is an opponent who is unusually well-tailored for the district instead. My sense is that there are at least three different mini-districts competing in this district: Bellevue, which is increasingly diverse and full of younger tech professionals (and becoming more liberal, like many other 50s-era inner-ring suburbs); further out suburbs like Sammamish and Issaquah which are more dominated by older, more economically conservative voters (many of whom are probably voted for Obama, but are ticket-splitters who remember the once-dominant northwestern moderate Republicanism and will opt for someone who promises to restore that); and the rural/exurban reaches of the district, which tend to be more right-wing, albeit in a backwoodsy libertarian/leave-me-alone way.

Reichert’s unusual skill is that he manages to appeal to two of those camps: he’s macho and law-and-order enough to appeal to the rural areas (and more blue-collar suburbs built around Boeing machinists, like Auburn, where Reichert is originally from)… but he also has the moderate, bipartisan Dan Evans-Republican schtick (in part from his many years as King County Sheriff, a nonpartisan position where he seemed to get along well enough with the county’s Democratic leadership) that appeals to the older suburbanites. Burner obviously plays well to the other younger, techy part of the district, but that’s about it.

For 2010, there are several state legislators in the district who might be better at taking the fight onto Reichert’s turf. State senators Rodney Tom (who started to explore running in the primary this year, but quickly jumped out when overwhelmed by Burner’s national fundraising capacity) and Fred Jarrett both seem to have more appeal to the economically conservative but socially tolerant and pro-environment ticket-splitting types who used to dominate this district. In fact, they both started out in the State House as moderate Republicans, and have been pretty solidly progressive since switching parties once the magnitude of how insane Republican leadership has become in the Bush years became apparent to them. I think many residents of this district would identify with that evolution and would tend to view that as sensible rather than opportunism or flip-flopping. State representative Chris Hurst, on the other hand, is a veteran and a resident of the district’s rural southern end; he would play stronger in Reichert’s strongest turf and counteract Reichert’s own tough-guy image.

Which isn’t to say that Burner should disappear; far from it. If she’s really serious about elective office, she needs to start a little down the totem pole and build the legislative resume and local connections there… and there are still a few Republicans representing the Eastside in the state legislature who need to be eradicated. Unfortunately, her old house was located in the 45th LD, which currently elects all Democrats. However, I assume she’s in the market for a new house, and she might move a mile down the road to the 5th LD, which is further out in the sticks and still elects all Republicans, but rapidly filling in with suburban development. Unfortunately, she’d need to wait another 4 years to take on state senator Cheryl Pflug, but in two years she can take on representative Glenn Anderson, who just squeaked by (51-49) against some guy I’ve never heard of (David Spring). Or alternately, she’s in King County Council District 3, which is represented by moderate Republican Kathy Lambert, up for re-election in 2009. Either way, with her name rec and fundraising abilities, it would be an easier way to get her foot in the electoral door, and I think many voters for whom the ‘experience’ meme worked against her would actually be happy to see her reaffirm her commitment to public service, if at a lower pay grade.

(Unfortunately, there’s a possibility that by the time she cut her teeth some more, WA-08 would already be filled by another Democrat. One other possibility is that Washington may gain a 10th House seat after the 2010 census, in which case a new seat would probably include part of WA-08, which is one of the state’s fastest growing areas, so she might keep that in mind.)

WA-08: Burner and Reichert Tie

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (10/21-23, likely voters, 10/5-7 in parens):

Darcy Burner (D): 46 (41)

Dave Reichert (R-inc): 46 (49)

(MoE: ±5%)

Here’s a nice turnaround from the last Research 2000 poll of the race in WA-08, which showed Burner down by 8 at a time when a number of other high-profile Democrats were starting to pull away (and spawned a boomlet of WA-08-related hand-wringing). Hot on the heels of the most recent SurveyUSA poll, which gave Burner a 4-point lead, comes another R2K showing a tied race, for an 8-point swing in two weeks. (We’ll apparently never find out whether this race swung late or R2K somehow missed the boat with their first poll.)

As with many races that have heated up in recent weeks, the independents are starting to move over to the Democratic column and that’s shifting the broader numbers: Burner’s now leading 46-45 among independents, up from a 51-40 lead for Reichert in the last poll. Note that this sample was midway complete when the flap over Burner’s degree first emerged, which turned into a counter-flap over Reichert’s degree by the time the sample was complete, so it provides only a partial sense of whether the dueling kerfuffles effected the numbers.

WA-08: Burner Up By 4 in SUSA; SSP Upgrades to “Tossup”

Survey USA (10/20-21, likely voters, 9/7-9 in parens):

Darcy Burner (D): 50 (44)

Dave Reichert (R-inc): 46 (54)

(MoE: ±4%)

This race has spent most of this cycle at the top of the races-to-watch list for the blogosphere, after Darcy Burner captivated the netroots in 2006 en route to losing to one-term incumbent Dave Reichert in this D+2 district by a few points, and then continued running for 2008 without missing a beat. However, a lot of blogospherians (including us at SSP) started worrying a bit in the immediate wake of the financial crisis, when other netroots-backe rematch candidates in swing districts (Larry Kissell, Eric Massa, Dan Seals) suddenly started to climb into the lead but Darcy Burner continued to languish (trailing not just in a Research 2000 poll but a Democratic internal as well).

However, two subsequent internal polls showed Burner with a lead, and then Burner posted titanic fundraising numbers for the third quarter; the one thing she didn’t have in her arsenal was a public poll having shown her ahead. Well, finally, we’ve got one; she’s up 4 in the latest KING5-sponsored SurveyUSA poll, a sharp reversal of fortune from her 10-point deficit last time, taken during the afterglow of the GOP convention. With that in mind, Swing State Project is returning this race to “Tossup” status.

It’s unclear whether this race was moving at the same speed as the other similarly-situated races and R2K just happened to miss that, or if this race truly did take longer to surge because, as I’ve speculated before, the tech-heavy WA-08 is better insulated from the financial crisis (up to the point where people open their 401(k) statements). Either way, though, we’re starting to look pretty good in this race. (And if the NRCC’s decision to dump $454,000 into this race, the largest component of their multi-million dollar ad buy today, is any indication, the GOP knows it too.)

One other developing happening in this race: there’s a kerfuffle, helped along by the Seattle Times (the more conservative of Seattle’s two papers), over Burner’s degree from Harvard. Nobody’s disputing that she graduated, just parsing whether or not she double-majored in computer science and economics. (Short answer, apparently they don’t even have ‘majors’ at Harvard.) I suspect this will have the same effect as the Reichert-cheating-at-media-buying scandal that came a few days before: it’ll rile up the partisans but whoosh right past the few remaining undecideds.

WA-08: Burner Leads In Another Dem Poll

Lake Research Associates for Darcy Burner (10/11-14, likely voters, 9/23-25 in parentheses):

Darcy Burner (D): 47 (45)

Dave Reichert (R): 40 (48)

(MoE: ±4.4%)

There was a sudden wave of pessimism about this race in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) last week in the face of two bad polls (an 8-point deficit in a public poll from R2K via Daily Kos, and a 3-point deficit in a Dem-sponsored poll). Things seem to have turned on a dime in the Eighth District, though.

Coming right after yesterday’s surprising DCCC poll giving Burner a five-point edge, here comes a second Dem poll from Lake (who found the 3-point deficit last time) showing Burner up by 7. I’d still like to see a poll from SurveyUSA of this race before I feel confident that it’s tracking alongside other possibly-successful rematches (like NC-08 and IL-10), but this has to be a real confidence booster.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, this is a district dominated by Microsoft and Boeing, and isn’t as directly impacted by chaos in the financial sector as a lot of other affluent suburban areas may be. However, Microserfs and Boeing employees still have 401(k)s, and I suspect they may have finally opened their statements last week.

Update: The full polling memo is available below the fold.

WA-08: Burner Trails in Both R2K and Dem Poll; SSP Moves to “Lean GOP”

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (10/5-7, likely voters):

Darcy Burner (D): 41

Dave Reichert (R): 49

(MoE: ±5%)

Lake Research Partners for Darcy Burner America’s Voice (9/23-25, likely voters):

Darcy Burner (D): 45

Dave Reichert (R): 48

(MoE: ±5.2%)

After losing to Dave Reichert by only a few points in the 2006 election, there were high hopes for Darcy Burner’s 2008 rematch. She led Reichert in fundraising through the cycle, and with Obama a particularly well-suited candidate for generating coattails in the affluent, suburban Eighth District, she seemed well-positioned to finish the job this year.

However, while the last few weeks have seen a few other re-match contestants (Eric Massa, Larry Kissell, Dan Seals) in swing districts moving into commanding positions, Burner seems to be remaining in the same position she was in before the financial crisis and corresponding Democratic surge: down in the mid-single digits. (Over the summer, she was down from 6 to 10 in three SurveyUSA polls, and most importantly, she was down about 4 against Reichert in the Top 2 primary.)

Research 2000 finds Burner down by 8. The internal presents a somewhat better picture for her: down by 3 in a straight head-to-head, but up by 9 (50-41) when voters are informed about the candidates’ positions. Over summer, such an internal poll might be heartening, but with four weeks left till the election, it doesn’t fill us with much confidence.

Several other factors also bode ill: we’re in the middle of a large (more than $400,000 combined) pro-Reichert ad buy by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business, which blunts Burner’s financial advantage. And today the Seattle Post-Intelligencer endorsed Reichert, touting his perceived moderation (they’re the more liberal of Seattle’s two papers; they have already endorsed Obama this year, and endorsed Burner in 2006). With that in mind, we’re downgrading WA-08 to “Lean Republican,” although we consider this as being on the cusp of “Toss-up,” and a strong showing the next SurveyUSA poll could put her right back in the thick of things.

Possible theories on why Burner is lagging include:

  • this race seems to be getting less coverage in the local media than it did in 2006, drowned out by the heated and noisy gubernatorial race, as well as the drama of the presidential race and the economy, so it has sort of afterthought status this year;

  • Reichert retains very high name recognition and favorables from his long stint as King County Sheriff (a non-partisan elected office), and, correctly or not, receives credit and the accompanying local celebrity status for catching the Green River Killer, making it difficult for Burner to drive up his negatives; and

  • this district is probably more insulated from the crisis in the financial sector than most, as this district is all about, in its north, Microsoft, and in its south, Boeing (although we’ll see what happens as people open their 401(k) statements this week).

The internal polling memo is over the flip…

UPDATE (by James L.): It turns out this poll was not an internal poll for Burner, but rather one commissioned by America’s Voice.

WA-08: Business Interests Pour In Bucks Against Burner

For the previous few weeks, it seemed like Darcy Burner had the TV airwaves in Washington’s Eighth District pretty much to herself, frequently running this ad calling attention to his no-bill-passing, 401st-out-of-439th-in-effectiveness-rating ways. With Republican incumbent Dave Reichert trailing in the money department, and the NRCC trying to spin dozens of plates elsewhere, Burner was free to advertise with impunity.

Well, she’s got some company now, as business front groups step in to fill the void left by the NRCC and Reichert’s own dwindling cash. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending $156,000 to air TV spots starting this week, on top of a $40,000 radio ad buy. (But wait: that’s not all! Next week, the National Federation of Independent Business is weighing in with another $219,000 television buy.)

Intervention by the Chamber in Washington politics isn’t unusual; in 2004, the Chamber plowed $1.5 million into the Washington Attorney General’s race, attacking Democratic candidate Deborah Senn (one of their Public Enemies No. 1, based on her slash-and-burn anti-corporate tactics as the state’s Insurance Commissioner). The Chamber also paid for pro-Reichert ads in 2006 (including some that had to be pulled for containing factual misrepres… um, well, lies).

Here’s the new Reichert spot that’s moving into heavy rotation, complete with the ritual invocation of “higher taxes”:

UPDATE: Burner is set to debut not one but two new TV spots of her own: here and here.

WA-08: Reichert’s Choice

Here’s Dave Reichert’s conundrum. On the one hand, he needs money. Cycle after cycle, he’s being constantly outraised by Darcy Burner. But there’s lots of free money out there available from Republican-leaning lobbyists, including from the mysterious Club 218, who organized a fundraiser for Reichert right before the August recess. Some of Club 218’s members are involved in defense industry lobbying, including:

Roll Call recently listed some of Club 218’s members, including Mike Chappell, a lobbyist for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. at Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock and Christopher Cox, a D.C. Navigators lobbyist for Alabama Aircraft Industries….

On the other hand, Reichert has 19,000 Boeing employees in his district. You might consider Boeing to be a major parochial interest for anyone who represents WA-08, and thus not expect someone who barely won last time to do anything that would piss off any of those Boeing workers. Like, say, hobnob with EADS, the parent company of French Freedom airplane maker Airbus and Boeing’s competition in the ginormous air tanker contract dispute:

EADS is teamed with Northrop Grumman in the tanker competition, to assemble the tanker in Mobile, Ala.

Today the Seattle Times is reporting that while EADS lobbyist Chappell didn’t give Reichert a check at the fundraiser, yesterday he gave Reichert $500. (Sensing a loser on his hands in the wake of the Politico story, Reichert has refused to accept the money.)

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy that might help contextualize this for non-Seattle-area residents, but am not having much luck, simply because there aren’t too many industries that are controlled by a duopoly, where the two competing companies each have a strong regional identity. Maybe if an Atlanta-area representative took a check from Pepsi… but there’s still no multi-billion-dollar contract decision pending on whether the federal government will stock only Coke or Pepsi in all its vending machines. So think of it this way: what would the reaction in WI-08 be if Steve Kagen was kissing up to a lobbyist from the Minnesota Vikings?

WA-08, WA-02: Reichert Leads Burner By 6

SurveyUSA (7/27-29, likely voters, 6/16-17 in parens):

Darcy Burner (D): 44 (45)

Dave Reichert (R-inc): 50 (51)

(MoE: ±3.8%)

The good news is: it looks like SurveyUSA is going to be polling the race in WA-08 every month, all the better to track the progress of netroots fave Darcy Burner. The bad news is: the race is basically static since last time, with Burner still down by 6. The candidates don’t seem to be doing paid media yet, though, so nothing has really happened in the last month to move the numbers (other than Burner’s house fire, which at least got her in the news for a few days).

One piece of good news, though: this poll finds the candidates tied among independents 45-45 (an improvement from last month, where Reichert led among indies by 13). If Burner can bolster her numbers among Democrats (16% of whom are defecting to support the ostensibly moderate Reichert), she’ll be right in this thing.

Survey USA (7/27-29, likely voters, 6/16-17 in parens):

Rick Larsen (D-inc): 58 (56)

Rick Bart (R): 37 (38)

(MoE: ±4.4%)

Inexplicably, SurveyUSA also keeps polling WA-02, which isn’t on anyone’s map. Had Rick Bart (a fairly high-profile guy, as the former sheriff of Snohomish County) gotten into the fundraising game a lot earlier, he might have at least been able to get this into ‘likely D’ territory. But right now, he’s sitting on $0 CoH, having raised and spent $31,456 in Q2.

Blue Majority: Darcy Burner For Congress

(From the diaries. Please welcome Darcy Burner to the Blue Majority page. – promoted by James L.)

As already seen on places like Atrios and Dailykos, there is a major blogosphere fundraiser taking place now for Darcy Burner. The Republican incumbent in Darcy Burner’s district, Dave Reichert, is hosting a fundraiser with George W. Bush. As such, the blogosphere is countering by raising funds for Darcy Burner, who epitomizes the phrase, “more and better Democrats.” Darcy Burner has also been added to the Blue Majority page.

Darcy Burner is the anti-Bush Dog. Here she is on FISA:

And here is her Bush indebted opponent, Dave Reichert:

So, chip in some cash to Darcy. Already, more than 450 people have done so, to the tune of more than $18,000. Let’s put more and better Democrats in Congress!