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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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December 3, 2007 8:37 AM

Could a Clinton candidacy drag Gregoire down?

Posted by David Postman

At The New Republic, political scientist Thomas Schaller looks at what might happen to down-ballot Democrats next year if Hillary Clinton is the party's presidential nominee. Schaller quotes a few worried Democrats. His lead quote comes from a supporter of John Edwards, which is interesting because the only person I've heard talk about the Clinton-drag factor is an Edwards supporter here.

Schaller says there's not much to worry about.

While there are plenty of other reasons not to vote for her, concerns about Clinton's down-ballot drag are overwrought. Though she could have a marginal effect on a few races here and there, our electoral system has become so shock-absorbent that presidential candidates barely have a down-ballet effect anymore.


Still, is there something unique about Clinton that could put other 2008 Democratic candidates at risk? The strongest claim to that is she's an uncommonly unifying figure -- for Republicans and the right. So while the intensity of Clinton hatred may not multiply a voter's vote, it could motivate citizens to engage in other ways, such as donating to Republican candidates, walking precincts, or persuading their friends and co-workers to vote against Clinton and other Democrats. Such activities have the potential to alter the composition of the electorate from the one currently being polled -- with potentially damaging ramifications for Democratic candidates in close races.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is one of the few Democrats Schaller thinks could be hurt by running with Clinton. Of course, looking at her 2004 dead heat, it's not unreasonable to think that any political dynamic could effect her re-election. But Schaller's wrong on one point. He says:

... Washington and Indiana are swing states that might be influenced by the presidential campaigns.

Washington is not a swing state. I've thought the same thing myself at times. But given that the state has voted Democratic in presidential elections since Ronald Reagan -- which is also the last time a Republican won the governorship -- Gregoire doesn't need to worry about that mythical swing.

But again, given how close the '04 race was, an anti-Clinton surge in eastern Washington or other solidly Republican spots in the state could be a boost to Republican Dino Rossi.

I wonder if the Edwards and Obama supporters among you think this is a real threat and whether you are talking it up in trying to peel away support for Clinton. Thoughts?

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