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Postman on Politics

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

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July 10, 2008 8:46 AM

New ads from Gregoire and Rossi

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire is airing a radio ad that tries to draw an ideological connection between her opponent, Republican Dino Rossi, and President George W. Bush.

But the ad pushes Rossi a bit further to the right than facts support. Rossi doesn’t help himself much on this front given that when it comes to the issue of abortion he refuses to say clearly what his position is.

The ad runs one minute and is airing statewide. It opens with a narrator, who asks:

When you hear the name Dino Rossi, what other name comes to mind?
You can listen to it here.

Gregoire’s answer is Bush, of course. The ad lists several issues, including children’s health insurance, stem cell research, global warming and abortion, where Rossi and Bush are on the other side from Gregoire.

On abortion, the ad says Rossi “wants to see Roe v Wade overturned to make abortion illegal.”

I can’t find anything that backs up that claim. It is clear that Rossi opposes abortion. But the evidence forwarded by the Gregoire campaign is less than convincing on the point of Roe v. Wade.

The campaign says Rossi’s opposition to 1991’s Initiative 120, which codified the U.S. Supreme Court case in state law, shows he wants the landmark act overthrown. Gregoire offers this quote from Rossi:

I believe in the sanctity of innocent human life, and that's one of the reasons I worked against Initiative 120.

The other piece of backup is a line from a Washington Law & Politics story from 2004 that says Rossi is “opposed to legal abortion.”

I don’t doubt that. Rossi’s record is in opposition to legal abortion. But that is not the same as saying he wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned. There are conservatives who oppose abortion, but have accepted Roe as the law of the land.

Rossi could clear up any ambiguity. But he won’t. His spokeswoman, Jill Strait, told me yesterday that abortion has “absolutely nothing to do with the Governor’s job description.”

Despite what Gregoire and her operatives would have people believe, Dino would have zero influence on Supreme Court rulings as governor. If Dino were running for a position that had anything to do with the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, he’d talk about the court’s decisions. Since he’s not, he’s going to focus on fixing problems in Washington rather than talk about red herrings.

I’ve struggled with another claim in the Gregoire ad:

And Rossi says there's no scientific proof that greenhouse gases cause global warming. He's in denial about the environment.
The Gregoire campaign backs up the claim by pointing to comments Rossi made in a campaign speech and in an interview with the Times. Both are summarized in this post I wrote in May.

What Rossi said in his speech was that there was an ongoing debate about global warming. In the Times interview he repeatedly refused to say whether he personally believed global warming existed. Not included in the Gregoire back-up, is this quote that appeared in the PI that same day as my post:

Rossi said there's no doubt the planet is warming but people will continue to argue about the cause.

And that’s what best sums up Rossi’s position, Strait told me. He doesn’t doubt global warming exists. But the Gregoire ad is a bit clever in claiming Rossi says there’s no proof that global warming is caused by greenhouse gases.

Strait says that “many people and scientists have differing opinions regarding the level of human impact on climate change.” Is saying there’s still a debate about the cause the same as saying “there's no scientific proof’?

If Rossi sided with the scientists who argue against greenhouse gases as the culprit then the Gregoire ad would be correct. But, as with abortion, Rossi won’t say where he comes down in the debate. That leaves his position open to interpretation and creates an opening the Gregoire campaign tried to fill with a few seconds of its one minute ad.

Rossi has a new radio ad up, too.

It’s also a one minute spot. It’s essentially a response to ads by Gregoire and Evergreen Progress, a union-backed PAC airing anti-Rossi ads. It features Rossi talking, unlike all the others so far which have featured narrators. Rossi says:

The incumbent must be getting pretty desperate this summer because her very first ads are attacks on me that just aren’t true. They’re so desperate, they even attacked my Italian last name.

That last line - delivered by Rossi with a chuckle -- is a reference to a state Democratic Party video that used the theme song to The Sopranos in an attack on Rossi.

On his campaign website, Rossi says:

It’s sad that an incumbent governor starts her campaign, not by talking about her own accomplishments while in office, but by attacking me.

He has also developed a new FactCheck page to respond to attack ads against him. Gregoire’s site has a Help Fight the Attacks page.

Gregoire did begin her ad campaign with jabs at Rossi. Those followed anti-Gregoire ads, though, aired by Rossi allies at the Building Industry of Washington and others who fund the It’s Time for a Change PAC.

And the Gregoire/Democratic attacks may be having some effect in these otherwise quiet days of summer. Rossi’s ad is a defense of his record. If Gregoire had started soft, that may have allowed Rossi to use this time to remind people of his biography.

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