NPR's Martin Kaste is in Washington State, taking a look at the new primary system there.
A quick primer: the so called "top-two" system, which Washington voters overwhelmingly approved in 2004, allows voters to select any candidate on the ballot for each race. The top two finishers advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation. The local Democratic and Republican parties mounted a legal challenge on the basis of "free association," and the district court sided with them. But the US Supreme Court saw "no basis" for overturning the initiative. The top-two system will be used for the first time in the state's August 19th primary.
One kooky aspect of the new primary system that the party affiliation of the candidates is, as Martin Kaste puts it, "completely free-form" -- i.e. fill-in-the-blank rather than multiple choice. That freedom has exposed an interesting trend among members of the Republican Party...or, should we say, the GOP.
Candidates may declare any party preference they choose -- Democratic, Republican, Libertarian -- regardless of what those parties may think of them. The candidates are even allowed to name the parties they claim to prefer. For instance, a candidate may request that the ballot give his party preference as "Fiscally Conservative Democratic Party," or "Old School Republican."
Those are just hypotheticals. But what is happening is that a number of Republican candidates are choosing to use something other than the term "Republican."
112 candidates call themselves "Republican." But another 26 have opted instead for the term "Grand Old Party," or "GOP."
Even the major Republican candidate for governor, Dino Rossi, has opted to identify himself with what he calls the "GOP Party." Redundancy aside, this seems to be a tactical decision to avoid the word "Republican" in a year when the party's stock is low.
A political science professor at the University of Washington, David Olson, tells me he thinks the word "Republican" may become toxic for conservatives in the same way "Liberal" has been for Democrats.
So these guys are sort of the opposite of RINOs...