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Trail Mix 05.31.12 

Rich Cowan brings a war chest and media savvy to the fight against Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

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Cowan’s Super Power

Ever since her first race against local hotel mogul Don Barbieri, it’s been smooth sailing for Cathy McMorris Rodgers. But this time it looks like things might be different. Rather than the “grassroots” campaigns of recent years (aka, “losing”), local businessman Rich Cowan seems poised to run a fully funded campaign with a proper media component.

Meanwhile, McMorris Rodgers has managed to land herself in Tom Foley country — shaky ground, indeed. True or not, Foley was sent packing for caring about the Democratic Party more than the 5th District. Now in a leadership role with the GOP in the most unpopular Congress ever, is McMorris Rodgers about to replay that famous chapter in local history? No word yet on whether Cowan will promise to limit his own term, as George Nethercutt so famously did.

But Cowan does have one skill that could be the wild card: He’s a filmmaker. In 1990, Cowan co-founded North by Northwest, Spokane’s movie studio. Now that politics are played out on TV screens more than at county fairs, Cowan has an edge. If anybody can make a TV ad with punch, it should be this guy.

The Changing Fifth

Another thing about the race for the 5th : The borders have shifted. Every 10 years, when the new census figures are published, the states’ representation is recalibrated — for 2012, Washington’s population growth gained it another seat. That means states have to redraw their congressional districts, and the 5th has changed, it appears, to become less safe for the GOP. No longer included are the conservative counties of Okanogan and Adams; a notably higher percentage of the district’s voters now reside in Spokane County.

Unified Theory of Cool

I’ve always had a simple theory about elections: The cooler candidate wins — kind of the “Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” concept.

Now I’m glad to see Roger Simon, the chief political columnist on Politico.com, agrees. Issues matter less than personality; style over substance.

We’re kind of shallow that way.

“In the end,” Simon wrote on May 18, “it won’t be about who raises the most money. It won’t be about who ate a dog or kept one on the roof of his car. It won’t be about whether Barack Obama will protect the middle class against Mitt Romney’s predatory capitalism. And it won’t be about whether Romney will create jobs by eradicating Obama’s ‘European socialism.’ “It will be about who you like.” George W. Bush was cooler than Al Gore. Reagan was cooler than Carter.

Even Nixon went on Laugh In and outcooled Hubert Humphrey.

So who does Simon think is cooler this time around? Hint: He titled his column, “Is Mitt Romney Count Dracula?”

— Ted S. McGregor Jr, @InlanderTMX

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