If their race is as close as polls predict, a good showing in Pierce County is crucial to the election hopes of Republican Dino Rossi and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and perhaps to the control of the U.S. Senate.
The state’s second-largest county is as close to a must-win as it gets.
“I believe it is one that we definitely need to win,” Rossi said on a swing through Sumner and Lakewood on Tuesday.
As a potential bellwether for the state, analysts group Pierce County with Snohomish County, another vote-rich area packed full of suburban voters who swing back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.
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The two form the ends of a crescent of densely populated communities around Seattle that political operatives target.
“If you’re a Democrat, basically you stand on the top of the Space Needle and do 360 degrees, and see every vote you need to win,” consultant Ron Dotzauer said.
Dotzauer, who has run statewide campaigns for Democrats, including Maria Cantwell’s winning 2000 bid for Senate, advises ignoring conservative Eastern Washington and focusing on just five to six counties west of the Cascades.
To compete, he said, a Democrat must win King County and do no worse than split Pierce and Snohomish counties. “If you ignore Pierce County, you do so at your own political peril,” he said.
Pierce County may be even more critical for Republican candidates. They lose Democratic-leaning King County by a wide margin in ordinary statewide races, said J. Vander Stoep, who ran Sen. Slade Gorton’s winning 1994 campaign and advised Rossi in his two gubernatorial bids.
But Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties “can very definitely swing in favor of a Republican,” he said.
While Rossi lost Pierce County in the 2008 rematch with Gov. Chris Gregoire, he won it in 2004. Murray has won the county each time she has run since winning office in 1992.
The campaigns are so technologically advanced these days that they target voters house by house, not just by communities or neighborhoods.
Campaigns survey voters to detect their political leanings. Then, over weeks of mostly all-mail voting, their daily required reading comes from the county auditor’s office. It’s the list of people whose completed ballots have been logged – so they know where to target their phone calls.
So the most important stops Rossi and Murray have made in the final weeks are the offices where they rev up their supporters. Those campaign workers are calling the people who haven’t yet voted.
The campaigns also know candidate appearances in the Puget Sound area draw TV coverage.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/politics