Early, in Some Cases Way Early, Campaign Maneuvers

In general, we don’t make a lot of fuss over most endorsements or advertising. On endorsements we’ll usually provide a list of them, but we don’t write a story every time a candidate is endorsed by Washington Ichthyologists or the ASB President at Klahowya. For negative ads there might be a story or two, say when a candidate’s photo is doctored to make him or her like the victim of bad plastic surgery or it’s alleged that the candidate wants to sterilize sections of Poulsbo.

On Thursday we received notices that cause us to make two exceptions. Attorney General Rob McKenna has endorsed one of Jay Inslee’s challengers. The other is a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ad highlighting alleged negatives of someone who has not publicly stated an intention to run. Both developments make sense, but it doesn’t mean there’s little surprise.

The DSCC’s Web site, Dirty Deals Dino for Senate charges that Dino Rossi has profited mightily from his campaigns even though he lost.

“In 2004, after I lost my first race for governor, I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself – until I realized that this was not a political setback, but a business opportunity! I had lots of great ideas – and a rocking stump speech. Why not use those things to make a tidy little profit? The “nonprofit” Forward Washington Foundation was born. Forward Washington – which is what I called my campaign, too – was supposed to improve the state’s business climate. And it did! Without Forward Washington, my former political aides might have been out of work, and I would have had $75,000 per year less to live on! Of course, those whiny Democrats complained that I was evading campaign-finance disclosure laws. They were just jealous that the state’s Public Disclosure Commission found that the foundation had raised a whopping $360,000 from unidentified donors. When I left my foundation to run for governor again, I worried about my income loss, but it helped that the foundation spent nearly $10,000 on copies of my book to give to donors. Thanks, guys!”

The site doesn’t just focus on Rossi’s defeats. The committee argues that Rossi was put into politics by shady types and benefited from industries he supported when he was in office.

That I know of, there are no other negative ad campaigns against any of the announced candidates. The reason is simple. Scroll down the list of the dozen or so candidates who have announced they’re running against Democrat Patty Murray and see if you find someone who has better name recognition than Rossi. See anyone who immediately is a stronger bet against the incumbent?

McKenna’s endorsement of Republican James Watkins surprises me only because there is another Republican in that race. Why it makes sense is because it’s clear that McKenna is the favorite to carry the Republican banner in the governor’s race, while Inslee has been emerging lately as a strong possibility among the Democrats. Inslee has been blistering McKenna lately over the AG’s decision to challenge the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation just passed.

Horsesass.org posted a video of Inslee calling out McKenna. The video appears in a blog post longing for Inslee vs. McKenna in 2012.

Watkins’ press release references that potential race in announcing McKenna’s endorsement.

“We’ve shown that Congressman Inslee is vulnerable, and Congressman Inslee has shown us that he’s not terribly interested in being the 1st District’s representative, but is already itching to start his 2012 campaign for governor. (See here and here)

“With the support of Attorney General McKenna and people throughout the 1st District who want change in Washington, D.C., I look forward to retiring Mr. Inslee this November so he can devote himself full-time to seeking yet another political office.”

McKenna, for his part, is quoted only in endorsing Watkins.

“James has the real-world experience and solid principles to be a great congressman working for the 1st District,” said McKenna. “He will make a big difference in D.C. and help put our nation on a better path.”

Still, if Inslee were to lose his congressional seat, it would seem to hurt his chances to be the Democratic ticket bearer in 2012. If you’re one to believe there were political machinations in McKenna’s decision to challenge health care reform, it would not be a stretch to see it here, too.

About Watkins’ point that “We’ve shown that Congressman Inslee is vulnerable,” you may recall we took a look at that claim made by Watkins using a survey he commissioned.

The owner of the company that performed the survey was mentioned on another site.

Finding out who paid for the poll also is critical, said pollster Bob Moore of Oregon-based Moore Information. If a candidate has paid for it, then the numbers can’t be taken at face value, he said, and reporters should do everything they can to speak to the pollster about the results, not someone working with the campaign.

“The pollster may get some numbers that the campaign doesn’t like, and won’t release,” Moore said.

I contacted both the pollster and the campaign. The pollster told me I’d have to get the information I wanted from the campaign. A staffer from Watkins’ campaign contacted me Thursday by e-mail, stating in part:

“Since the poll has some information we would prefer not to have the Inslee campaign get wind of, we’re not going to release all the details.”

So that means either Watkins got some info the campaign is saving to lob onto Inslee later, or the pollster got some information the campaign didn’t like. Either way, without that information I don’t know how we can assume the conclusion “Inslee is vulnerable” is any more credible than an ad suggesting a candidate for the House wants to dump Hanford nuclear waste into the Columbia River.

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