Moderate Republicans, who met near Seattle last weekend, say they can offer two critical things – campaign help and electability – to a GOP bruised in both Washingtons.
"We have a special place in the political spectrum," said Alex Hays, executive director of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. "When voters get angry, they generally don't take it out on us and our people."
The group's conference at a Seatac hotel this weekend was intended to "re-energize" the GOP. The title of the first presentation: "So Many Crises? So Little Hope?"
In major races, Washington continues to trend Democratic, according to pollster Stuart Elway. When he asks voters if they'll choose a Democratic or Republican congressional candidate, Democrats now have a 15 percentage point lead.
"If the election were held today, it could be pretty rough on the Republican Party," concedes Hays.
But moderates, he says, are key to GOP victories in statewide offices and in the suburban neighborhoods that are the battleground for dominance of Olympia.
"Every statewide elected official is a moderate Republican," Hays said. Among those appearing at the group's convention: Attorney General Rob McKenna, state Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland and Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Critics on both the right and left say dismiss the Mainstreamers as fakers with little campaign cash or clout.
Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party called the group's "mainstream" title "a deceptive marketing gimmick" used by far-right Republicans who would be nothing more than rubber stamps for the Bush administration.
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said. Repeatedly.
Conservative blogger Doug Parris says that the Mainstreamers are simply Republican liberals who are trying hard not to look liberal.
"They are the Decepticons," Parris said, borrowing the name of the villains on The Transformers kids show.
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