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Postman on Politics

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

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June 10, 2008 4:47 PM

Primary ballot allows candidates to re-brand

Posted by David Postman

There is much talk this year - the eighth of an increasingly unpopular president - of damage done to the “Republican brand.” John McCain’s campaign manager says the political environment for Republicans is “one of the worst in our party’s history.” And retiring Virginia Congressman Tom Davis told E.J. Dionne recently that if Republicans "were dog food, they'd take us off the shelf and put us in a landfill."

What’s a Republican to do? Re-brand of course. On Washington’s 2008 primary and general election ballots, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi will be identified as a member of the “G.O.P. Party.”

That’s an abbreviation for the Grand Old Party, the nickname the Republicans picked up in the 1870s. “GOP” is used in newspapers and political blogs. But until now it hasn’t served as an official party designation on an election ballot.

But if Kentucky Fried Chicken can become KFC, why can’t Republicans become the GOP in a state where a Republican hasn’t been elected governor since long before diners tired of fried Kentucky poultry parts and some sort of breakfast xenophobia turned the International House of Pancakes into IHOP?

This year it can. The state’s new top-two primary allows candidates to state their party preference when they filed for office last week. And they could say anything they wanted as long as it wasn’t profane, though they were urged by Secretary of State Sam Reed not to engage in any “funny business.” (Reed has said, “Voting is cool,” but, apparently, not funny.)

Most Republican candidates, including three incumbent Republican statewide officials, listed their party preference as “Republican.

But Rossi is carrying forward with a re-branding effort began four years ago during his first run against Democrat Chris Gregoire. The tag lines on his TV commercials said “Rossi for governor, GOP,” as do his lawn signs. Campaign spokeswoman Jill Strait said:

We have found that voters know what GOP means and we spent millions of dollars saying GOP on the last campaign, so we decided to stick with it.

Reed said that Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna had considered going with “GOP.” But Reed talked him out of it, and says he wishes Rossi and other “GOP”s had stuck to the party line.

I just think it’s clearer to the voters and actually a little more respectful in some ways to give the full party name. But it’s their right. They can say what they want.
Seattle pollster Stuart Elway said he didn’t know how widely voters will recognize “GOP” as meaning Republican. But he figures Rossi wants to look to voters like something other than a member of the Republican Party.
That would be my first interpretation. Why else would you do it?

Reed is giving candidates until tomorrow to change their party identifications, though he is only allowing essentially copy-editing changes. That’s necessary, in part, because some candidates were confused by the online form they had to fill out. It called for party identification, and some people didn’t realize that whatever was filled in would be followed by “party.”

So if someone wrote “Democratic Party,” as longshot Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christian Pierre Joubert did, it will show up as "Democratic Party Party." That has a nice beer-commercial ring to it: It’s a party-party! Vote once, party twice!

There likely will be a few “Democrat” candidates changing their party preference. Some candidates filled in “Democrat” thinking that word alone would follow their name, as it has on ballots in past years.

But some Democrats say “Democrat Party” is a Republican construct and should be avoided. Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer pointed out which candidates were listing themselves without the “ic” and e-mailed them to point out the problem.

It is well known in the Democratic Party that the phrase "Democrat Party" is consider an insult to many Democrats, so to see Democratic candidates use the phrase is surprising.

Here’s why it’s considered an insult, according to the liberal watchdog group, Media Matters for America.

Republicans consistently refer to the "Democrat Party," even though that is not what members of the Democratic Party call themselves, and use the noun "Democrat" as an adjective, which New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg identified as an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic," or as Hertzberg wrote, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation."

Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, is one who listed his party preference as “Democrat.”

I don't think it matters one way or the other. Voters just want to know which party we belong to. Either wording gives them that information. Any concern is much ado about nothing.

Rep. Jim McIntire, leaving the Legislature for a run for state treasurer, said he has asked to make the change, though he doesn’t understand why anyone cares.

I’ve been a Democrat all my life, so I don’t consider that an insult. … People are worked up about semantics.

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Posted by Daniel K

8:19 PM, Jun 10, 2008

It is amazing to me that some Democrats don't seem to know the name of their party.

Maybe they need a history lesson:

"Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic Party in 1792 as a congressional caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights and against the elitist Federalist Party. In 1798, the "party of the common man" was officially named the Democratic-Republican Party and in 1800 elected Jefferson as the first Democratic President of the United States."

"...In 1844, the National Convention simplified the Party's name to the Democratic Party."

Posted by jan

9:49 PM, Jun 10, 2008

Just because Dino Rossi spent millions to be known as the GOP candidate instead of the Republican candidate doesn't mean the people of the state should be required to back the same stunt and pay to have GOP printed on a ballot next to his name.

Sam Reed should know better and not allow it.

All this does is exposed the depths deception that Rossi will go through to try to get elected statewide.

Was Dino Rossi the GOP Party candidate on the ballot in his last election? Or is this a change?

Posted by JimD

10:11 PM, Jun 10, 2008

If Rossi using GOP so the disgraced word "republican" doesn't appear with his name, that's pretty funny - and silly.
I think most folks know that GOP and Republican are the same thing.
And for all those who don't what GOP stands for, there are many more who will be reminded how grand old republicans of the past are rolling over in their graves over what the likes of Rossi and his ilk has wrought on what once WAS a Grand Old Party.

Posted by Richard Pope

2:04 AM, Jun 11, 2008

Someone should find a couple of crackpots to run for President and Vice-President on the "G.O.P. Party" ticket in this state. Then find 11 people to sign up as presidential elector candidates, and get 1,000 signatures to put this "G.O.P. Party" on the presidential ballot in this state. The nuttier and crazier the platform, the better.

That way, come November, Dino Rossi won't be identified with the more mainstream John McCain/Republican Party ticket, which should appeal to at least 35 to 40 percent of the state's voters. Instead, Rossi will be self-identified with some totally kooky "G.O.P. Party", whose presidential ticket is spouting some ideas that are highly offensive to the vast majority of voters.

Posted by Rich Miller

8:33 AM, Jun 11, 2008

What a left wing gas bag!

Posted by John

9:24 AM, Jun 11, 2008

Well, If where going down the path of history perhaps we can call todays democrat party KKK. which they sure where in the old days and still today with Senator Byrd head of the Senate who is the Grand Dragon of the KKK.

Ok,JimD waiting for your clever revision of history.

Oh what is the D in your screen name JIMD is that D for symbol of the partys mascot?

Posted by JimD

10:05 AM, Jun 11, 2008

What are you babbling about???
You think Byrd "is" the Grand Dragon of the KKK?
You need to get caught-up on your history, bud.

Posted by Scott/Redmond

10:23 AM, Jun 11, 2008

People don't realize this is a consequence of a greater underlying issue. As Dave points out, we don't have a party based election system. Nor do we have formal membership in the two party system (as Oregon does, for instance). As a result, the party isn't an affiliation but a "preference" where the candidate can list it to show their general alignment. So in theory, someone like Jim McDermott could run listing his preference as the "Barney the Dinosaur" party.... you get the drift.

Posted by John

1:21 PM, Jun 11, 2008

Just because he stopped wearing the white sheet and hasn't paid dues in years doesn't mean he not active.
Perhaps you missed his "N " word last year.
who do you think freed the slave Patty Murray!
Under the "Democrats" blacks are still slaves.

Posted by upchuck

1:26 PM, Jun 11, 2008

re: party branding and kkk slander...

as al sharpton pointed out in 04: true, lincoln, a republican, gave them emancipation. but that was the last thing republicans did. so after the promised 40 acres or a mule never materialized, they decided to take this donkey (aka the "democratic" party) and rode it as far as they could take it.

after fanny lou hammer called for the doors of the democratic party be open in 64 it's been the era of tricky dick's southern strategy where all the kkk sympathsizers and other who expouse intollerance have joined the "conservative coalition"

Posted by John

1:50 PM, Jun 11, 2008

So you guys decided to keep Byrd and his buddies as a fond memory of the good old days! Byrds of a feather flock together.
Anyone with an open mind can tell a democrat from a libertarian or Republican. Once a democrat undercover opens his/her mouth within 2 mins we would know. So it must be a slow news day for postman to bring this up. Second thought Democrats do run for office like a wolf in sheep clothing as long as they keep their mouth closed they could get away with it.

Posted by Daniel k

8:08 PM, Jun 11, 2008

"Instead, Rossi will be self-identified with some totally kooky "G.O.P. Party", whose presidential ticket is spouting some ideas that are highly offensive to the vast majority of voters."

Richard, for all intents and purposes, the party Rossi is identified with is already spouting ideas that are highly offensive to the vast majority of voters, particularly with respect to their immigration stance against citizenship by birth right.

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Jun 11, 08 - 07:54 AM
UPDATED: More on Republican re-branding

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Top Republican leader to help Reichert

Jun 10, 08 - 04:47 PM
Primary ballot allows candidates to re-brand







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