On Thursday the professional prognosticators over at Sabato's Crystal Ball moved two competitive Washington Congressional races to the right.
They moved the race in Washington's 8th District, where incumbent Democrat Rep. Kim Schrier faces some guy named Jesse Jensen, from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic "as a precaution," given the slight combined Republican lead in the August primary. The election analysts argue that high turnout (and a $2 million+ pot for buying up TV ads all October) should be enough to keep Schrier in her seat.
Things are looking much worse for Democrats down in southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, however, where incumbent Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler faces her second challenge from Washington State University - Vancouver professor Carolyn Long. After taking a gander at the August primary results, where Long trailed JHB by six points despite more and earlier financial support from the DCCC, the Crystal Ball moved the district from Leans Republican to Likely Republican.
Though JHB retained a lot more of her voters from the last election cycle than Long did, Dem strategists and the Long campaign remain confident of a Democratic victory in a seat they haven't held since the state redrew the district to favor the GOP a decade ago.
The August primary showed JHB with particularly resilient support all over the district. In the 2018 general election, for example, JHB scored about 22,900 votes in Lewis County. In the 2020 primaries, she brought in about 21,500 votes. Long, on the other hand, took in 10,900 from that county in the general and only 6,600 in this year's primary.
Long spokesperson Erin Schneider said Washington State Republicans "pushed their base hard to turn out for the August primary," and argued that JHB "hit her ceiling in August." She expects higher turnout in November to swing the election in Long's favor.
One Dem strategist agreed. He pointed to the state's turnout of eligible voters in elections past and said, "Given the electorate engagement in comparison to 2016 and Trump on the ballot, November 2020 Washington State turnout could be mid to low 70s, with Washington’s 3rd keeping pace with the state and making this extremely competitive," he said. He also pointed to a pre-primary poll of registered voters showing JHB leading Long only by four points, within the margin of error.
In the coming weeks Dems also plan to emphasize the "contrast," as they say, between Long and JHB. Whereas Long and the party spent a lot of time introducing the candidate to voters in 2018, they will now focus more of their energy attacking the incumbent for her promise to vote for Trump this year, her acceptance of corporate PAC money, and her status as an insider.
To that end, last week the Washington State Democrats launched a microsite that pegs JHB as a "creature of DC" who takes corporate PAC money from Big Pharma and then votes their way. They accurately described her vote for Trump's corporate tax cut bill as a "giant tax break" for the pharmaceutical industry, and her vote to cripple regulatory agencies as a vote "to let pharmaceutical companies keep drug prices high."
Andy Orellana over at the DCCC used similar language: “Jaime Herrera Beutler is facing the race of her life because of Carolyn Long’s intrepid campaigning fueled by Southwest Washington’s grassroots and her message of hardworking and accountable leadership," he said in a statement. "This is a sharp contrast with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler who has lost touch with the voters and listens more to her corporate special interest backers, who have raised health care and prescription drug costs, than working families in Southwest Washington.”
Aside from adopting a more offensive position, Schneider said Long will also continue to increase her number of voter engagements, despite the pandemic complicating get-out-the-vote efforts. "She's communicating and resonating with the voters of the district by holding dozens and dozens of Coffees and Cold Ones with Carolyn, and hosting town halls, digital or otherwise, to hear what the people of Washington's 3rd have to say about how we can get leadership back in Congress that works for Southwest Washington," she said.