One of the chief strengths of Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna -- Inslee's rival -- is his cross-party appeal and ability to attract moderate voters. Keenly aware of this, Democrats are working hard to portray him as too extreme for the state. Similarly, Republicans hope to cast Inslee as too liberal for the swing areas in Washington. For both, on issues like the budget, the key will be not too stray too far in one direction or the other. That explains, in part at least, Inslee treading carefully -- to the point of being notably noncommittal -- as he does in the interview.