KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Poll says Washington state is in play for Trump, bad news for Biden, Ferguson

May 27, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 5:48 am

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump throws a "MAGA" hat during a...

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump throws a "MAGA" hat during a campaign rally in the south Bronx, Thursday, May. 23, 2024, in New York. (Photo: Yuki Iwamura, AP)

(Photo: Yuki Iwamura, AP)

A new Cascade PBS/Elway poll shows Washington state is in play for former president Donald Trump. Even worse news for Democrats is the limp support for President Joe Biden, gubernatorial hopeful Bob Ferguson and incumbent Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell.

Despite being a deep blue state, Biden only has 42% support (31% certain, 11% inclined to support the president but could change their minds). Trump has 34% support (25% certain, 9% inclined to support the former president but could change their minds). With media coverage so positively skewed towards Biden and against Trump, both poll results are surprising for Washington voters.

With 13% of Washington state voters undecided, Trump theoretically has a shot at taking the state. Helping his cause are the third-party candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein and Cornell West, which earn 6% amongst them.

Even with favorable polling, a Trump win in Washington is still unlikely. However, the poll portends Biden and Democrat troubles this election season. 

More from Jason Rantz: Exclusive – Secretary of State says AG Bob Ferguson demanded he break law in vulgar tirade

What do Washington state voters care about the most?

The Cascade PBS/Elway poll offers plenty of warning signs for Democrats. 

Nearly 80% of respondents pay attention to government and politics (44% say regularly follow and 32% say they pay attention most of the week, but not every day). Yet only 35% believe this is the “most important election of my lifetime,” which suggests that Democrats’ insistence that abortion access and democracy itself is on the ballot is being dismissed.

According to the poll, the most important issue on the minds of voters is the economy (28%) and immigration (a soft 18%). Only 14% are motivated by Democracy at risk and 11% by the Biden vs. Trump rematch, again signaling the main Democrat talking point about the dangers of Trump is falling flat.

Only 7% of respondents cited foreign affairs as important (and only 2% listed Israel’s war against Hamas). But in a tight race, this could matter. Young voters who have ideologically aligned with anti-Israel extremists and Hamas terrorists may back a third-party candidate over Biden or not be motivated to vote at all.

While the poll framed voter issues through the presidential election, it’s hard to imagine Washington Democrats escaping the blame and Republicans earning some support. 

In poll, economy and illegal immigration hurt Democrats, but help Trump, Republicans in Washington

Criticisms of either the economy or illegal immigration lay at the feet of Democrats, who have complete control in Olympia, and Biden, whose administration has dictated policy direction. Both issues have consistently polled well for Trump and Republicans nationally.

Washington’s economy has been struggling thanks to job losses hitting tech and construction the highest.

At 4.8% in April, the state’s unemployment rate is at its highest since September 2021, post-COVID (4.7%), and is nearly a point higher than the national average (3.9%). 

The impacts of illegal immigration have also caught Washingtonian’s attention. 

With an influx of migrants seeking asylum in the Seattle area, holding parks hostage until they’re given housing, area residents have grown annoyed and concerned. Meanwhile, high-profile crimes allegedly committed by illegal immigrants, including the death of Washington State Patrol Trooper Christopher Gadd highlight the crisis.

More from Jason RantzBob Ferguson using ‘fake’ name in his run for Governor, misstated law to threaten opponent

The impact of initiatives

A trio of popular, voter-backed initiatives are on the ballot, bringing more enthusiasm to the election.

If approved, I-2117 (41% support vs. 31% opposed) would nix the burdensome and costly gas tax from Governor Jay Inslee’s signature cap and trade program. I-2019 ends the state’s new capital gains tax (47% vs. 36%). I-2124 ends the state’s lackluster long-term care insurance mandate (47% vs. 25%). While the three initiatives still have high undecided voters, it’s in good shape, especially since big money hasn’t dropped to promote them yet. 

The three initiatives, if approved, would reverse Democrats’ main policy agendas from the last two legislative sessions. Three other initiatives, all killing Democrat policies like the ban of police vehicular pursuits, were already reversed by the state legislature under pressure from the public and positive polling in their favor.

More from Jason Rantz: Progressive candidate upset he isn’t running unopposed, makes up candidate

Bob Ferguson is in trouble, Dave Reichert angling for an upset

If fewer voters are excited about the presidential election, with Biden voters clearly less enthusiastic than Trump supporters, it’s easy to see how Democrats can suffer across the ticket.

Despite statewide name recognition (or perhaps because of it), Attorney General Bob Ferguson only secures 33% of the respondent’s certain or likely support. His main Republican challenger, former congressman and King County Sheriff Dave Reichert pulls in 28%, and he’s not particularly well-known on the east side of the state. 

Ferguson has struggled early in the campaign due to far-left views behind Washingtonian’s concerns with the state’s direction.

Ferguson pushed for drug decriminalization, which has been responsible for the state’s record high fatal overdoses and the related homelessness and crime crises. He may be trying to rewrite history now, but usually, politicians have more respect for voters than to do it this close to his previous publicly-held positions. 

Poll doesn’t look good for Maria Cantwell, Dr. Raul Garcia holds steady

Incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell only pulls in 39% support, despite being in office since 2000. But most voters can’t name a single issue to define Cantwell’s career and she’s been almost entirely absent from the state except for when she runs for re-election. She does so few media appearances and speeches that she’s easily forgettable.

Dr. Raul Garcia, her Republican challenger and a relative newcomer, pulls in 30% of the vote.

Focused on the economy, public safety (particularly around drug addiction), and his personal story of he and his mother escaping Fidel Castro’s communist regime to become refugees benefiting from gaining asylum in the United States, Garcia’s campaign has been gaining traction.

With 30% of the voters still undecided, the Senate race is up for grabs.

Washington is still a blue state, despite positive-looking poll for Trump

There is no doubt that Washington is still a deeply blue state and Democrats will start to coalesce closer to November, despite the poll showing better than expected (and potential) support for Trump. But the polling is unusually soft for Democrat candidates and their issues and it’s unclear how many Democrat voters will vote third party or sit this election out. Why is that?

When one party has total control of the state legislature and most of the city’s largest and mid-size cities, voters can better understand who is to blame for their worries. Democrats branded themselves around defunding police, legalizing drugs, targeting businesses and shutting down our economy during COVID. Residents are not pleased.

Biden is deeply unpopular with even diehard anti-Trumpers conceding their lives were better under the former president. Plus, there’s a looming threat of third-party candidates who can pick up younger, activist voters who otherwise would be knocking on doors for the Democrat nominee. If they sit the activism out this time around, it will undoubtedly hurt Democrats.

This is a recipe for upsets in 2024.

Trump can take advantage, not necessarily by winning (though it’s possible, even if improbable), but by motivating unlikely voters to mail in their ballot — supporting the initiatives and down ticket Republican candidates. It’s also easy to see how Trump haters could skip voting “MAGA” for president, but understand we’re feeling the pains of one-party rule, choosing to vote for Reichert or Garcia, and giving Republicans a chance.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram, and  Facebook.

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Rantz: Poll says Washington state is in play for Trump, bad news for Biden, Ferguson