Tax cuts and tsunamis: That’s so 2011

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

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So, is everyone ready for the 2012 presidential campaign? Hey, kickoff is expected any minute now!

As the Nov. 2 election fades in the rear-view mirror, let’s look ahead — way ahead. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer offered this preview in Friday’s Washington Post: “If Barack Obama wins re-election in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010.” Whoa, Charlie! Such despondency will get you banished even deeper into the GOP doghouse. Get with the program, son.

From a lower altitude, the 2012 preview of our state features two offices held by women Democrats. No one knows — or is speculating — whether Gov. Chris Gregoire will run for a third term. The only other Democrat rumored to be considering such a run is U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island, who ran for governor in 1996 and lost in the primary to Gary Locke.

No such secrecy surrounds a possible Republican candidate, though. Many folks say Attorney General Rob McKenna is itching for a gubernatorial run. Seattle Times columnist Joni Balter says this is “the worst-kept secret in state politics” and refers to McKenna as “Gov.-in-waiting.”

Our state’s second big race in 2012 will be for the Senate seat held by Democrat Maria Cantwell. No one from either party has made any moves toward challenging Cantwell, and there are two possible explanations.

The first is tied to Murray. If a Republican (Dino Rossi) could not defeat the said-to-be-vulnerable Murray in 2010 — the year of the national Republican tsunami — what hope is there for the GOP in 2012? (Kindly ignore the reality that two years is an eternity in politics.)

The second reason favoring any re-election bid by Cantwell, in my opinion, is related to momentum and gender. I’m talking about the stunning command by three women of our state’s top political posts since 1992. In those 18 years, Gregoire, Murray and Cantwell have collectively won 12 of 13 elections for statewide or federal office.

Even more impressively, in the past 14 years, these three women are 9-for-9 in elections. Good luck, GOP, disrupting that dynasty without a retirement by one of the three. Ol’ Dino might have some advice for any “It’s time to take our state back!” crusaders.

GOP is loving redistricting

One looming uncertainty is how our state will be affected by redistricting. Census figures will be announced Tuesday, and adding a 10th congressional seat in our state seems likely. Those redrawn lines will apply in the 2012 election. On the national scale, this decennial redistricting process will profoundly impact politics at all levels, especially in Congress. But no one knows what those impacts will be.

However, there are a few tantalizing clues, as majority parties will largely influence redistricting in many states. According to Charlie Cook of the National Journal, “Republicans enter this redistricting season in their strongest position in modern history, controlling the mapmaking process in states with about 195 (congressional) districts. Democrats will run the show in states with just a combined 49 districts.” In our state, redistricting is decided by a commission that is mostly nonpartisan, certainly more so than in other states.

If you’re too impatient to wait for 2012, here is some preview information about the 2011 elections:

Special elections could occur in Clark County on Feb. 8, April 26, or May 17. The primary will be Aug. 16 and the general election will be Nov. 8. Among 2011 races will be those for city councils, school boards, fire districts and port districts. On the Vancouver City Council, that will be seats held by Bart Hansen (he won on Nov. 3 to complete an appointed term), Larry Smith and Pat Campbell. At the Port of Vancouver, the seat held by commissioner Brian Wolfe will be on the ballot.

Sorry, boys and girls, that none of these local elections in 2011 will be partisan, and that no party affiliations will inflame the campaigns. The following year, though, we can all get back to those two bulwarks of political strife: demonizing and demagoguing.

Sharpen your swords for 2012!

John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.