I think we can all agree that this is not the best year to be running as a Republican. When your party’s leader is a lame duck — clocking in with a sub-thirty percent approval rating — it’s only prudent to keep your distance.
But did Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi go too far in trying to escape the Republican brand? On ballots that have already gone to the printer for the November election, Rossi listed his party affiliation as “GOP Party.” As we’ve previously mentioned, Democrats sued Rossi to force him to use the more common “Republican” label on the November ballots.
Democrats didn’t sue because calling yourself a member of the “Grand Old Party Party” is redundant and annoying. They have actual polling data that shows:
[M]any people don’t know that GOP and Republican mean the same thing. One recent [Stuart] Elway poll indicated Rossi did better among voters if he used the “GOP” label instead of “Republican.”
“There’s no question we were shocked by the Elway poll,” state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said, adding that an internal poll by the party had a similar finding.
While the Democrats have an interesting political argument, their legal argument … does not exist:
A new state law allows candidates to identify their party on ballots as they please (up to 16 characters long), but Sam Reed, Washington’s secretary of state, said he had encouraged candidates “not to do silly things.”
Mr. Reed, a Republican and the defendant in the Democrats’ lawsuit, said G.O.P. — for Grand Old Party — had been used for years and was acceptable.
Game, set, match.
But how “off-message” are Democrats in Washington State? If you are an incumbent Democratic governor, and you think that the GOP is going to take you down in a year where even the Republicans are calling their brand no better than “dog food,” you have serious problems — problems that a naming convention isn’t going to fix.
Leave the courts out of your campaign. It’ll be better for everybody.
Democrats Sue Over ‘G.O.P.’ on the Ballot [New York Times]
Smith v. Reed (pdf) [Ballot Access]