When I blasted the Gregoire campaign a few weeks ago for their incompetence, I was primarily thinking of the media and message elements of her campaign. In this week’s Stranger, Sandeep Kaushik gives an even more damning account of her incompetence.
In concentrating her efforts on white rural and suburban swing voters–who voted in droves for Rossi anyway–she lost a significant chunk of the black vote (as well as some Seattle left-liberal voters), and so far appears to be losing a state that John Kerry carried handily by more than 200,000 votes.
How did she manage to do it? The following episode is at least part of the story:
After a Seattle Times report that Gregoire had joined an all-white sorority in the 1960s, the campaign initially chose not to offer even a qualified apology, but instead angered black leaders by spinning the story as a badge of Gregoire’s civil rights credentials.
Here’s the rub: YOU CAN DO BOTH. If you make the case that you tried to change the sorority from within (which, as I understand, she really did), that doesn’t stop you from offering an apology as well. And when community leaders amongst a significant base are calling for an apology for something like this, it hardly seems optional. Why not apologize? What’s it going to hurt?
Still, going into the election, I had more or less forgotten about this sorry episode. African-American voters may not like Democratic candidates, but they’ve shown an understandable preference for being taken for granted over being taken to the cleaners before. It wasn’t clear to me this was where Gregoire was vulnerable. It appears I couldn’t have been more wrong.
CBS-reported exit polling indicates that Rossi may well have won as much as a third of the black vote (in comparison, George Bush took only 12 percent of the black vote nationally). And in King County alone, 502 voters wrote in the name of Gregoire’s primary opponent, African American King County Executive Ron Sims, the Seattle Times reported.
Sims was, of course, her primary opponent. A third of the African-American vote to the GOP is a huge shift, and demonstrates Gregoire grossly mishandled this constituency and this voting block. Let’s put it this way: if Gregoire had managed to keep the Rossi votes to merely double the usual rate amongst this block, she wins with a small but decisive margin.
Instead, we’re spending a million dollars of Democratic money (not to mention the cost of various court cases) for what appears to be a less than 50/50 shot at winning this thing. I know it’s probably worth it, but I just can’t get enthusiastic about it, since there’s no earthly reason we should be in this situation.