Over the last 48 hours, I've had a number of discussions with political operatives in Washington State regarding Gov. Christine Gregoire. Word on the street in the Evergreen State is that she is actively seeking a new job, specifically in the Obama administration, which would enable her to resign her office and move on to better and brighter things.
As previously discussed at this blog, Gregoire would have good reason to be looking to ditch the governorship. Washington is facing a fairly sizeable budget shortfall, and polling from late November showed that Gregoire's approval rating had fallen to an astonishingly low 33%. However, some savvy onlookers convinced that she's job-hunting view her actions as an indicator of her refusal to take responsibility for a difficult fiscal situation that she is, at least in part, responsible for. In addition, the prospect of her resigning has Republicans chomping at the bit. Not only is Gregoire a reviled figure among many of them because of her handling of fiscal matters and because she is suspected to be more than a closet fan of introducing a state income tax; a lot of Republicans (and, frankly, non-Republicans) in the state still consider that she "won" the governorship in 2004 off the back of electoral hijinks, and that the "result" was fraudulent. Of course, she beat Dino Rossi, her opponent in both 2004 and 2008, fair and square the second time around-- but now, multiple sources are indicating that she's ready to give up office anyway if she gets a better offer, potentially setting up a hard-fought special election that would inspire fresh optimism in more than a few Republicans.
Yesterday and today, speculation centered on Gregoire potentially getting ready to step into Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's shoes, were he to return to Colorado to run to succeed Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who announced he would not seek a second term of office on Tuesday. Democrats were throwing around several names, with Rep. Jay Inslee front and center (a prospect that heartened more than one Republican with a background in Washington State politics given certain perceived negatives commonly associated with him). Other names in the mix included those of Aaron Reardon and Lisa Brown. On the Republican side of the ledger, the main name being thrown out was that of Rob McKenna, the state's Republican Attorney General-- though the possibility of a third-time-lucky Rossi run also seems to have generated a bit of chatter. As it turns out, while Salazar was reported to have been given White House clearance to return home and run for governor, The Hill indicated this afternoon that Salazar would not run and that he was endorsing John Hickenlooper, Denver's mayor (who has apparently not yet declared his candidacy). That will have put any possible immediate plans to exit stage left on Gregoire's part on ice, at least for now, though it's worth keeping an eye on potential openings in the administration, at least so long as Gregoire's approval numbers remain low. [intro]