Back in the late 90s, when chain emails actually got read, there was one that went around comparing Bill Gates to Michael Jordan and asking, "Is it better to be a jock or a nerd?" It noted that Jordan made $300,000 a game and $178,000 a day from endorsements. It went on and on and on about how much money that was, and then closed with this note:
"However, if Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 250 years, he'll still have less than Bill Gates has today. Nerds rule! Nerds rule! Nerds rule!"
In Sunday's Oregonian, conservative columnist Elizabeth Hovde attempts to deliver "the gift of clarity" to Oregon Republicans still smarting from losing the Governor's race. Her column, which is worth reading in its entirety, is an attempt to diagnose what went wrong for Chris Dudley.
Of course, she completely whiffed - missing the major reasons that Chris Dudley lost. I'll start with this laugher:
Dudley rose above most of the muck that characterizes high-profile races, despite appearing just as uninterested as Kitzhaber in engaging the issues via formal debates.
Just as uninterested? Seriously? John Kitzhaber proposed seven debates. Dudley's failure to immediately accept was the biggest strategic blunder of his campaign. There was only one question in voters' minds this election: "Is Chris Dudley ready to be Governor?"
I've never before seen the debate-about-debates become something that voters care about. But in this election, it mattered. Dudley's unwillingness to debate communicated loudly and clearly - he's not ready to be Governor. (An analysis that Jeff Mapes notes is shared by Mark Cushing, a lobbyist who was part of the Frohnmayer 1990 team.)
Hovde also suggests that Multnomah County voters voted tribally, not on the issues:
Dudley was a great candidate for left-leaning Oregon. And his big loss in Multnomah County should make it clear to conservatives that residents there value their liberal association above good fiscal sense or jobs.
I'm always skeptical about suggestions that the voters had no idea what they were doing. And this is where I bring up something Hovde ignored - Dudley's biggest tactical blunder of the race. His "macaca moment": getting caught on tape talking about the minimum wage. We can argue (and we have) ad nauseum about what precisely he meant, the words he chose, and more.
But the bottom line is that Chris Dudley managed to communicate loud and clear that he was a rich guy who didn't understand the everyday challenges faced by working people. And while the Democrats tried to communicate that in 473 different ways over the campaign, nothing stuck - until Chris Dudley did it for us.
Across Oregon, voters know exactly what they want: Someone who will wake up every morning trying to figure out how to create family-wage jobs and never give up trying. In one fell swoop, Chris Dudley proved he wasn't that guy.
(An aside - Hovde says lefties should have liked this "union man". Seriously? Fights between NBA owners and NBA players feature billionaires fighting with millionaires over how to divvy up the spoils of megabucks TV contracts. An NBA union guy is hardly a "power to the people" organizer.)
Like every Republican, Hovde is bemoaning the electoral strength of Mutnomah County. As Carla noted, Hovde completely missed the fact that Benton and Lane Counties also went overwhelmingly for Kitzhaber. As Evan Manvel noted, in a race this close even Kitzhaber's votes in counties he lost, like Klamath and Douglas, made a difference. (It's not like we have an electoral vote system in Oregon.)
I'll add one more note to the county-county-analysis: Dudley lost in Washington County.
Dudley lost Washington County by 1.6% while winning Clackamas County by over 9%. Even setting aside a big win in his hometown of Lake Oswego, that disparity doesn't make a lot of sense. If Dudley had simply won Washington County by the same margin that he won Clackamas County, his vote gap would have closed from 22,303 votes to 2,345 votes - and we'd be talking recount.
Of course, Washington County is one of America's burgeoning suburban tech corridors - a place where there are large numbers of apolitical techies with young families that just want government (mostly schools) to work and be competent. (Note that Beaverton is just a few years away from passing Portland as the biggest school district in Oregon.)
It's in Washington County's nerd culture (and I say that affectionately) that Chris Dudley's jock image and attitude played the worst. Especially when compared to John Kitzhaber.
Frankly, I'm thrilled that Oregon Republicans are obsessing about Multnomah County. As long as they keep doing that, they'll be missing the real story in Washington County.
Just as long as we Democrats don't miss the lesson either. For the last three weeks of an election, Multnomah County GOTV is critical. But the rest of the time, cracking the code in Washington County is job #1.