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Postman on Politics

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

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August 7, 2008 11:44 AM

Gregoire: Not enough for Dems to elect Obama

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire says that voters newly energized by the campaign of Barack Obama fail to understand that to get real change this November they need to also vote for her and other Democrats further down the ballot.

In an interview with The Stranger, Gregoire talked about the need to have Democrats in Congress, in governors’ offices and in Legislatures, to ensure that if Obama is elected he can actually get something done.

I think Senator Obama has brought out a new generation of voters that have not voted before. And some of these folks -- I know, because I’ve talked to them -- feel they’re engaged to voted for Senator Obama and then they’re done, failing to recognize the important of, he can’t do much of anything alone, if he doesn’t have a Congress he can work with, if he doesn’t have governors he can work with, if governors don’t have legislatures they can work with.

So I think our job is to convince these folks, it isn’t good enough to be engaged by saying, “I’m going to vote for president of the United States.” You’ve got to get engaged and look down the ticket and ask yourself, “Who are these folks and do I want to support them?” So I think that is going to be very important.

You can watch part of Gregoire’s Stranger interview here. It opens with her discussion about Obama.

It certainly will be important for Gregoire to get Democratic voters to pick her along with Obama in November. That has less to do with the Obamamania, though, and more to do with Gregoire’s poor electoral performance in the state’s Democratic strongholds.

Four years ago Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry outpolled Gregoire in King, Pierce and Thurston counties. Kerry had no phenomenal pull with young or new voters.

But a look at the county-by-county results shows Gregoire had a difficult time riding 2004's Democratic wave. And that had a lot to do with her ending up in a dead heat with Republican Dino Rossi, who she now faces for the second time.

In King County, Kerry got 580,378 votes and George Bush got 301,043.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray got 573,506 votes to her opponent’s 287,436 votes.

Gregoire got 505,243 and Rossi got 350,779.

That means thousands of voters went down their ballot and voted for Kerry and Murray and either skipped the governor’s race all together or voted for Rossi along with the Democrats at the top of the ticket.

Gregoire’s Democratic predecessor had much better results. In King County, Gov. Gary Locke outpolled Bill Clinton in 1996 and Al Gore in 2000. And that’s not just because Locke served as King County executive. He got more votes than Clinton or Gore in Thurston and Pierce counties, too.

Gregoire had what seemed like an advantage going into the '04 election since she had been elected three times as state attorney general.

The governor’s need to appeal to those core Democratic voters makes me wonder why she started her TV campaign with what was a generally conservative message -- including boasting of protecting Tim Eyman’s property tax cap.

I’ll be interested to see what The Stranger crew has to say about their Gregoire interview. They cover a lot of ground that will be of interest to the very sorts of liberal voters who four years ago skipped the governor’s race.

I can’t imagine there are many votes to be won by Gregoire’s answer about her position on gay marriage. Maybe she will lose fewer votes, but is anyone attracted by her saying, in response to being asked whether she’d sign a bill granting marriage rights to same-sex couples,

I’m not going to deal with hypotheticals.

It is hypothetical to ask what she’d do if a bill was passed by the Legislature. But it's not at all hypothetical to ask what she believes -- and what she feels and what she’d like to do -- about gay marriage.

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