Cheney hopes his allure will rub off

Monday might be a good day for Vice President Dick Cheney to declassify the chapter of the Republican Party election playbook pertaining to Doug Roulstone.

Cheney will be in Everett starring at a pricey luncheon fundraiser for Roulstone, a retired Navy commander who is trying to unseat three-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen in the 2nd Congressional District.

The vice president’s appearance at the Holiday Inn will net tens of thousands of much-needed dollars for Roulstone’s run at the better-financed Larsen.

But Roulstone’s problems at this stage involve more than money.

His campaign is seeking traction on which it can build momentum. He is a widely unknown name to voters. And even more galling, there will be Republicans plunking down $250 to meet the vice president Monday who will be voting for Larsen in November.

If Cheney is aware of the campaign’s struggles, he would do well to make clear to those attending why their big checks will not be wasted on a losing endeavor.

Local Republicans contend Larsen is vulnerable, and Cheney’s arrival accents the point.

Voters in the 2nd District are viewed as generally independent political thinkers rather than strict party adherents. Though they align with political parties, they often forsake partisanship for personal preferences. Some swing back and forth between party choices on every ballot.

In 2000, the congressional seat was open, and four candidates ran. Larsen won with 50.01 percent of the vote, edging out Republican John Koster. Two years later, Larsen won re-election over Republican Norma Smith with a whopping 50.07 percent, reinforcing the notion that the seat was up for grabs.

Both of those elections attracted national attention and brought in big money from the political parties and interest groups. The die seemed cast for fierce battles every two years.

But in 2004, Island County Auditor Suzanne Sinclair ran and received no aid from the state and national parties, no visits from political heavyweights and no bounty from political action committees.

Larsen rolled to victory with 63.9 percent of the vote. He was favored to win, but not by such a great margin; voters in the district didn’t deliver such a landslide for any other Democrat. And in the race for governor, Republican Dino Rossi outpolled Democrat Christine Gregoire in the district.

Republicans effectively conceded the congressional seat that year and made Larsen a lot less vulnerable.

Cheney’s role is to counter that impression and convince those attending that Roulstone’s pursuit is not an impossible dream.

He’ll also be looking to fire up foot soldiers whose faith may be flagging amid tumbling support for the president’s policies and spreading predictions of electoral doomsday this fall.

Steve Neighbors, chairman of the Snohomish County Republican Party, predicts a great day for the campaign.

“When the vice president comes to town and Doug Roulstone is standing next to him, that certainly doesn’t hurt, does it,” he said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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