Donald Trump is officially hanging around the necks of Republicans here, whether they like it or not. Voters gave the GOP a thrashing in our state’s primary, one that reverberated all the way down the ballot.
The question of the year in politics is: How big is the blue wave?
The answer from Tuesday’s primary is that around Puget Sound, and even in some of the redder parts of the state, it could be a monster.
The voting Tuesday ought to set off a tsunami siren for two of the state’s three remaining congressional Republicans who are running for re-election. Both Spokane Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, from southwest Washington, finished with less than 50 percent of the primary vote.
Democrats dramatically outperformed the norm in many of their districts up and down the ballot. Maybe it’s from a backlash to President Donald Trump or a record influx of new Democratic candidates, or both.
2018 Primary Election
“As a rough guide, Republicans in R+15 or less districts should be panicking,” wrote G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist for The Economist magazine, about the trend around the country.
Whether that trend washes all the way down the ballot to state legislative races is another big question. But on Tuesday, there were signs that it was just as strong, maybe even more so.
By November, if conditions don’t improve for the GOP, there may not be a single Republican officeholder left in King County, save those from the 31st District down in the southwest reaches of the county around Enumclaw (a part of the county that voted for Trump in 2016).
Every Republican incumbent in a suburban King County district underperformed the margin of his last election victory by at least 10 points. Example: Incumbent state Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City, won his 2016 campaign by 7.5 percentage points. Tuesday he was trailing Democratic challenger Lisa Callan by 7 points — a net swing against the Republican of minus 14.5 points.
Also endangered in this way are state Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way (-14 point swing); Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington (-12 point swing); and to a lesser extent, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn. But Fain’s race is a testament to the strength of the blue wave. He is King County’s most popular Republican, winning his last election, in 2014, by a whopping 28 points. On Tuesday he was leading a candidate who has never run for any political office, Mona Das, by 8.5 points — a lead, but also a nearly 20-point drop-off from his last election.
Sean Trende, an elections analyst for Real Clear Politics, has noted that adding up the vote shares for the parties in each primary contest is a pretty good predictor for who will win in November. Historically, Democratic candidates here have also tended to add between 3 percent and 5 percent in November to what they got in the summer primary.
If that formula holds at all this year, Republican Dino Rossi, who is trying to replace retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, is also running behind. A Democrat has never won in the 8th District. But Republicans in the first day of returns Tuesday were scoring only 47 percent of the total, with Democrats pulling in 50 percent (five third-party candidates had the other 3 percent.)
“These are pretty dismal top-two primary numbers for Rs in WA,” summed up Dave Wasserman, of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The other remarkable thing about the big blue wave? The leading Democratic vote-getter in every race I’ve mentioned above, including all four Republican-held congressional district races, is a woman.
If the 2016 election was the year the white man roared, then the sound of Election 2018 is shaping up to be more like a chorus of women.
Maybe a full-on opera before this is done.