I spoke by phone yesterday with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dino Rossi. Rossi seems confident and is very happy with the way his campaign is going. As he told the National Journal’s Hotline OnCall last week, "This is the first time I've actually run in a non-presidential year. I never have before. I've always had to wear everybody else's baggage." Dino has also never run in a year where the national tide was running so strongly against Democrats. Clearly, he’s enjoying the freedom. To me, he seems like the Dino of 2004, the upset-minded underdog full of enthusiasm and energy.
There are two narratives emerging from the Rossi Senate campaign. First, there is the one put forth by Fred Barnes that Dino is the “10th man,” the 51st vote in the Senate for Republicans to take back the majority. This fact is evidenced by the two fundraisers held for Dino back east, and another that is planned for July 27. The Washington Senate race has national implications and will increasingly attract national attention and money.
The second narrative is one that will grow as we get closer to November and Dino’s polling numbers stay even or actually increase (and they will, he’s only been in the race a month and a half.) Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts was a huge upset certainly. But a Dino Rossi victory would be an even greater triumph. Brown ran for an open seat. Dino faces an 18-year incumbent in a state equally as blue as Massachusetts. Remember, Washington has not elected a Republican governor since 1980, the longest streak in the country. Washington will be the bellwether. If Murray is seen as vulnerable in late October, ANY Democrat in the country could be viewed as vulnerable. And if Dino wins, not only will it galvanize the Washington State Republican Party, it will change the conversation about Republicans throughout the United States.
Dino realizes what’s at stake. That’s why he told me he left “political retirement” to take on this challenge.
TF: The economic pain in this country is both wide and deep. Unemployment is just part of the story. A recent Pew Research Survey found that the recession has affected more than half of working adults in the U.S., including pay cuts, reduced hours, cutting back on spending, and postponing retirement. How have Patty Murray and the Democrats failed Washington’s working families, and what do you propose to turn things around?
Dino Rossi: Well, I tell you, part of the problem here is when Patty Murray voted for the trillion dollar stimulus package, she said that there was going to be no higher than 8% unemployment, which is outrageous in itself, the 8% figure. Clearly that hasn’t happened. The functional unemployment rate is over 17% in the state of Washington. If you add the people who are currently unemployed and looking for work and the ones who have given up, the computer experts who are delivering pizza right now, you’ve got a 17% functional unemployment rate. It’s nearly two out of every ten that you meet that are functionally unemployed. It’s a huge problem.
The problem too is that Patty, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the gang really believe that raising taxes is part of what needs to be done and translating that into government spending is somehow going to make us prosperous. This is part of the real problem I see. You know, you just take the health care bill alone. The health care bill was a tax-and-spend bill with a little health care sprinkled on top. You have a $500 billion tax increase. It will cost the Boeing Company alone $150 million. But if you go across the state of Washington and ask businesses how much this health care bill is going to cost them, you talk about taking money from the job-creating private sector and putting it into temporary government jobs and putting it into more government and larger government. So you’re talking about tens of thousands of jobs that are going to be lost because of her 60th and deciding vote on that highly partisan health care bill.
This is what Patty and her friends have been up to. They honestly believe this Keynesian economic notion that you borrow money from the Chinese, the Saudis and print it and spend it on your pet pork projects and somehow you’ll be a prosperous nation. Follow the logic of this. If that were true, would there be any poor nations in the world? Everybody would do that. That’s part of the problem.
What we have to do is, we have to start bringing back and living within our means. For businesses to flourish, and I’m talking about especially small businesses, over 60% of our job growth since 1992 has come from small businesses, for them to flourish, we need to have low tax rates and predictable regulation. This is not rocket science. Coming from a business background myself, I’m on the Dean’s Advisory Board at Seattle University School of Business and Economics, it’s not rocket science what you have to do. But I’m running against someone who has never held a meaningful private sector job in her adult life that I know of. So we have a very different way of looking at it, which is one of the reasons this election is so important. The team that is on the field right now is the one that is actually driving this.
We are going to hit the rocks, I think. Interest rates are going to go up. I think the cost of our debt is going to go through the roof. We have so much of it hanging out there right now as far as debt is concerned. It’s going to be a very serious situation. But if these folks, Patty and her friends, are still in charge, what they’re going to do when we hit the rocks is back the ship up and put it full steam ahead and hit the rocks again, because they think that we’re not spending enough. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the wrong idea. We have to stop the spending and start controlling spending. Otherwise, it’s going to kill all our jobs. But, if you let the small businesses flourish, jobs will come back.
TF: The closure of Yucca Mountain is a very important issue for Eastern Washingtonians. Why do you think Patty Murray is not doing more to stop it? It reminds many people around here of when Christine Gregoire let Areva slip away to Idaho a few years ago.
Dino Rossi: I think you’re going to have to ask her why she isn’t doing more. She’s done some things, but she’s not doing more. What she needs to do is push through some form of legislation that will make sure and require that Yucca, and all the things that have been laid out for Yucca, are followed through with. That’s unfortunately not what she’s doing. You might want to ask her who she is afraid of offending. Bottom line is we need to get the nuclear waste out of Washington state.
TF: A Gallup Poll last month showed that there is a greater enthusiasm gap this year between Republicans and Democrats than there was even in the watershed election year of 1994. Are you seeing that out there in the campaign trail? Are voters hungry for REAL hope and change?
Dino Rossi: Boy, it’s been phenomenal out on the campaign trail. People that we’ve encountered, a lot of them have never been involved in politics before in their life. These are folks who have never really engaged before. Engineers to school principals to you name it that understand the country is in trouble, which is the same thing that got me in this race. I’ve never been more concerned for the future of our country. So we’re finding that enthusiasm level is out there.
I’m not sure about the other side, if they’re getting the same enthusiasm. But I haven’t witnessed it yet.
TF: Would you oppose a bill extending unemployment benefits if it added to the deficit, as Senator Tom Coburn did, and if so, why?
Dino Rossi: Yeah, I think it needs to be paid for. There are many people unemployed in our state right now. But if we are going to put forward unemployment insurance, it needs to be paid for. Patty Murray actually voted for they call it the "Pay-Go bill," that actually, if you are going to have more spending, you have to find other places where you need to reduce so you don’t add to the deficit. And then, every time something comes up, she’ll vote to look the other way when it comes to “pay as you go.”
Why can’t you pay as you go? I’m not talking about increasing taxes to get there but that’s always the first knee-jerk reaction by my opponent. We don’t need to increase taxes. There are plenty of things that can be done to reduce this budget. What about ending TARP, which has almost $400 billion sitting in that account? Ending the remaining balance of the stimulus which is $270 billion sitting there? The people in my neighborhood are hurting right now. Why don’t we just tell federal government workers you’re not going to get a raise for a year? There’s another $30 billion. By reducing the federal workforce back to pre-Obama levels by only hiring one back for every two that leave, that’s another $35 billion. We’re talking about some real money just laying there on the table that could reduce this deficit.
Quite frankly, we are passing on a debt to our kids. It’s unconscionable what we’re doing here, when my 16-year old asks me, “How much money do I owe?” You know, 16-year olds should be asking, “When’s my next baseball game. 16-year olds should be asking, “When can I get my driver’s license?” 16-year olds should be asking those kinds of questions, not how much I owe. Our parents and grandparents, they worked, they produced, they saved. This generation, and especially this crop of politicians that are in charge, are borrowing to consume. It can’t end well.
TF: Do you have anything else you would like to say to readers?
Dino Rossi: Certainly! We want to welcome anybody who wants to work in good faith to turn this country around. We are in serious trouble right now I believe, which is the only thing that got me out of political retirement. It was that serious. I believe that if we don’t have a course correction here this election cycle, we’re going to wake up 24 months from now to a country we don’t even recognize. We are at that crossroads where either we are going to restore the ideals the Founding Fathers intended for this country or we are going to become France or worse yet, Greece. That’s it. That’s where we are.
I was in a "Fox and Friends" interview a few weeks ago with Brian Kilmeade. In the interview, I said to Brian, “It’s only the future of the free world at stake.” And it is.