State’s Republicans are mum on Trump

Donald Trump is marching toward the Republican presidential nomination and Washington is one of his next stops.

His campaign is building momentum, with ballots to be mailed out next week for this state’s presidential primary in which 44 delegates are up for grabs.

Also next week, The Donald is expected to show up at rallies in Vancouver, Spokane and maybe even the Puget Sound area.

The timing couldn’t be better for the Republican Party in a state rarely considered important in our national nominating nightmare.

Or could it?

The campaign and the frontrunner are unsettling to many GOP leaders.

To appreciate its disquieting effect, consider what transpired at the Lynnwood Convention Center last week when 550 people gathered for the Snohomish County Republican Party gala.

In the nearly three-hour event, none of the featured speakers, including the county and state party leaders, mentioned Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich by name, or their spirited competition in any detail.

As for the May 24 presidential primary — for which ballots will start arriving May 4 — no one dwelled on its potential importance in determining the party’s torchbearer.

Basically, if one didn’t know there is a historic presidential election going on, they certainly wouldn’t have found out from those on stage that night.

Off stage, even the bevy of Republican elected officials in attendance was mum on the subject.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, state Sen. Barbara Bailey, of Oak Harbor, and state Reps. Dave Hayes, of Camano Island, and Norma Smith, of Clinton, each said they plan to vote. None would say for whom.

Wyman said if she revealed her choice it could be viewed as an endorsement and, as the state’s chief elections officer, she is not endorsing.

The state lawmakers politely changed the subject and specifically declined to comment publicly on Trump.

No doubt their reticence was influenced by the polls and prognostications that a Trump candidacy could have a damaging domino effect on them and other GOP candidates. The theory is independent voters will be turned off by Trump and vote for a Democratic president, then continue voting against Republican candidates down the ballot.

An Elway Poll released earlier this month found 55 percent said they would vote against a congressional candidate in Washington who endorsed Donald Trump.

Although the poll didn’t ask about candidates for state offices, Democratic Party operatives drool at the possibility of a coming landslide of victories in legislative races. At every opportunity, they are pressing Republican candidates to reveal their presidential choice.

“If you’re a member of the Democratic Party state committee, every Republican candidate’s middle name is Trump,” pollster Stuart Elway said.

But in such an unpredictable campaign, the polls and prognostications could prove wrong.

While Trump will have a difficult time winning Washington in November — the last Republican presidential candidate to capture this state was Ronald Reagan — his candidacy could inspire hordes of people to become involved by volunteering to help GOP hopefuls.

Republicans have gained seats in the state House and Senate in recent years by working hard to keep those races from getting overwhelmed by the national mood. This year will be no different.

Thanks to Trump, though, the challenge will be huuuge.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

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