The latest Elway Poll shows something not yet seen in this year's race for governor: Jay Inslee in the lead, 43-36, over Rob McKenna. (With a margin of error of +/-5 percent.)
How'd that happen?
McKenna led earlier this year, benefiting from superior recognition and organization. He has been in statewide elected office for 8 years and preparing for this race for years. As the campaign has become more visible, and voters have become aware that there is a Democratic and a Republican candidate, the race appears to be returning to the default partisan position.
The pace lap is over. Let the race begin.
Also, Elway sees a "collapse" in McKenna's support among independents, growing support for Inslee in Seattle and King County, a growing lead for Inslee in support from women, and a higher "likability" rating for Inslee.
My guess at what's going on: The victory for health care reform at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the repeated reminders of McKenna's opposition to it, have hurt McKenna among women and independents (as Inslee's campaign has long hoped would happen). These kinds of mistakes by McKenna can't have helped, either. And, as Inslee himself predicted back in March—when we and others were asking "Does Jay Inslee Exist?"—the beginning of Inslee's air campaign appears to be doing some damage. Inslee told me in March...
...not to expect any big change in his poll numbers until he shifts from his current ground game (this exhausting scouring of the land for hands to shake, earned media moments to create, and advice to gamely absorb) to an air attack that will involve millions of dollars in TV commercials and help make this one of the most expensive governor's races in the nation.