Washington state in play for GOP?


In 1994, Washington state was ground zero for a Republican revolution that gave the GOP control of Congress for a dozen years.

The state's congressional delegation went from 8-1 Democratic to 7-2 Republican, and among those who lost was Democratic Rep. Tom Foley, the first sitting speaker of the House of Representatives to lose his seat since the Civil War.

In the wake of the recent GOP victories in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, Democrats and Republicans in Washington state are wondering whether history could repeat itself this year.

Democrats are still haunted by 1994, and their motto is "Not Again in 2010." Republicans are hoping they'll again ride a wave of public anger over health care and other issues to majorities in the House and the Senate.

Nine months before Election Day is too early to talk of a rerun of 1994, but political experts don't rule it out.

"It's too soon to tell whether it will be another 1994 in Washington state or around the country," said Stu Rothenberg, a veteran political analyst who tracks political campaigns in all 50 states.

The party in power generally loses seats in a midterm election, but the crucial question this year is whether Democrats could lose enough seats to lose control of the Senate, the House or both.

For now, Republicans have successfully nationalized the election, making it a referendum on the economy, health care and climate change. In 1994, they did it with their "Contract With America," a strategy that some Republicans are considering reviving.

Polls have found that voters are increasingly angry about the direction of the nation, and President Barack Obama's approval ratings and those of congressional Democrats have fallen.

Yet the biggest difference between now and 1994 is that this year Democrats have months to turn things around, while in 1994 they had weeks. Foley didn't realize he had a problem in 1994 until September, when he won barely a third of the vote in Washington's open primary.

Patty Murray is a pretty dim bulb on the liberal's tree in Washington. Her reelection would show how committed Washington voters are to mediocrity. It will probably take a wave election to knock her and other Democrats off in the state. One of the problems in doing that is that toom many liberals from California have moved up there. I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw on a visit to Seattle several years ago--"When we told Californians to go where the sun never shines, we did not mean for them all to come here."


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