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« Clinton On The Daily Show | Blog Home Page | Morning Thoughts: Safer Ground »

Gregoire's Big Bank, Big Burn Rate

After winning the 2004 election by just over 100 votes and three recounts, Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) knows she faces a tough battle for re-election, especially if, as looks likely, former State Sen. Dino Rossi (R) runs against her a second time. Rossi, from Issaquah, a Seattle suburb, has kept his name in the papers with his Forward Washington Foundation think tank, and many say his decision on the race could be forthcoming as early as October.

Gregoire is taking no chances, though, and is stockpiling money as fast as she can. Gregoire raised about $6.4 million for the 2004 race, the most in Washington State history. Now, in the five months since the legislature has been out of session (statewide candidates in state offices are subject to a fundraising freeze while the legislature is in session), Gregoire has held about two dozen fundraisers, pulling in almost $1 million, according to the Seattle Times.

Those events bring Gregoire's total raised to more than $2.6 million, and puts her on pace to raise more than she did in 2004. Still, filings with the Public Disclosure Commission, Washington's version of the FEC, show the Democrat has burned through about $940,000 of that cash, for a 35% burn rate, leaving her with about $1.7 million on hand.

The high burn rate doesn't scare many Democrats, though. "Next year is the most politically expensive year of our lives," said Democratic consultant Cathy Allen. "What they're doing now is building the data and getting early commitments from people, and that costs money and takes time."

Republicans, on the other hand, see the burn rate as indicative of fundraising troubles. "That's surprising that she's burned that much because the early money should be the low-hanging fruit," said GOP strategist Todd Myers.

Republican strategists are convinced that Rossi will be able to quickly close the gap, especially because of the fundraising freeze. Gregoire will not be able to fundraise beginning thirty days before the legislative session starts. Rossi has "three, four months where he can fundraise where the governor can't," Myers said. "From this day forward, he has more time to fundraise than she does." Allen, among other Democrats, is not convinced. "Happily, the economy is pretty good here," she said. "But it's not that good."

A poll conducted in early July showed Rossi trailing Gregoire by just 4 points, 47%-43%, in a state that leans heavily Democratic. Rossi, if he runs, will have a lot of catching up to do in order to stay financially competitive. But a high burn rate from Gregoire, along with a GOP fundraising base still hopping mad about the 2004 election, will allow the Republican to catch up just that much faster.

UPDATE: This reporter made the idiotic mistake of spelling Mr. Myers' name with one too many e's. We regret the error.