Whatever red wave was forecast out across the nation on Tuesday had already diminished to a riffle by the time it reached Washington state. When it hit the Cascade Mountains, it completely went “pfft.”
What washed up into Puget Sound was deep blue instead — or as they also call it around here, the status quo.
This all added up to yet another triumph for Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. She fought off a record $25 million spent against her, some terribly done conservative polling that misleadingly showed the race close, and a slew of “think pieces” by right-leaning pundits predicting that after 30 years in office, Murray had worn out her tennis shoes.
The map of her win looks like a GOP secessionist’s fever dream: bright red in every Eastern Washington county, with dark blue in a handful of counties west of the Cascades.
In the end, Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley ran into the same big blue wall as every GOP Senate candidate before her. King County, with nearly a third of the state’s population, absolutely walloped her, voting by 48 points, 74% to 26%, to return Murray for another six-year term.
Smiley never even tried to appeal to King. The strategy made no sense. She bashed its companies, hated on Seattle and in the final week of the campaign did at least six TV hits on national Fox News, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s shows. It’s as if she was auditioning for some role other than the U.S. Senate, because there is no surer path to alienating the liberal heart of King County than to go chumming it up on Fox.
You can’t win this state without at least attempting some crossover political pitches to King County. GOP candidates keep making this same fatal mistake.
It was a bad night for MAGA all down the Washington state ballot. Donald Trump favorite Joe Kent is trailing down in southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District (though that race is too close to call). And two MAGA state lawmakers were also losing: election denier Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, along with Rep. Rob Chase out in the Spokane area.
Democrats lead in eight of the 10 Congressional races in the state, potentially leaving only two Eastern Washington seats left for the GOP. Democrats also are set to keep both the state House and Senate in Olympia, along with, possibly, every statewide elected office. They may end up gaining a seat in the state Senate.
Democratic gains were hardly expected when the year began, with inflation up and liberals down in the dumps, as well as in the polls. So how did this rebound happen?
As Election Day dawned Tuesday, a Republican insider who’s been around Washington state politics for decades sent me his thoughts on what this election was really going to boil down to.
“Republicans emphasized inflation, the economy, the price of gas and crime,” he wrote. “Democrats emphasized abortion rights, the threat to democracy, and extremism.
“So which party is in sync with the majority of voters, and which party is out of touch?”
The election answered that emphatically: Democrats are almost viscerally in touch with the majority of voters in this state, who happen to be Democratic-leaning. It’s a blue state after all. Republicans have got to learn they can’t completely ignore Democratic concerns and issues if they want to have a shot.
There was no exit poll conducted in Washington, but a national exit poll tells the story. In that poll, 39% of the electorate described itself as “angry” about the Roe v. Wade decision being overturned. Not irked or bothered, “angry.” And of that 39% of all voters, they backed Democrats by an overwhelming 71 points, 85% to 14%.
That’s why we just saw wall-to-wall ads about abortion rights. The national women’s group EMILY’s List alone spent nearly $10 million on ads for Patty Murray, about $8 million of it calling out Smiley’s anti-abortion-rights positions. Democratic voters, male and female alike, were outraged to have a constitutional right taken away for the first time in their lives. It completely changed the trajectory of this election — and for good reason.
If Republicans couldn’t cut it here this year, with so many metrics looking terrible for Democrats, is it hopeless for them?
If the party continues down the MAGA rabbit hole nationally, it’s almost like they need to spin off a West Coast auxiliary unit of the party that’s far more moderate. Otherwise, they may be swimming in a blue sea here every year for the foreseeable future.