Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Framing the House - ID-01 (yup, Idaho)

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Hard to imagine you’d find anything approaching a competitive House race in Idaho but the ID-1st is really interesting. (Hat tip to Marshall from Idaho.)

When we frame races, one of the things we look at is how the last Presidential race turned out. Regular race-framers would look at Idaho and say “Bush carried the state by 38%” and walk away. However, I looked at the numbers
and found out that Bush lost Blaine County to Kerry, (albeit in the ID-02), lost Latah County to Kerry plus the 3rd party candidates (ID-01) and barely won Shoshone County (ID-01). This indicates to me that there are cracks in the red brick wall. I couldn’t find any poll data I considered reliable, but I found an unreliable poll indicating McCain was beating Obama by 13% in March. I could find no current polling on the ID-1st.

Currently, the House seat is held by a first-termer named Bill Sali. He won in 2006 with 49.9% of the vote. A Club for Growth member, he was far from the favourite choice. In fact, back in '06 Mike Simpson, (ID-02) threatened to throw Sali out a window to solve a host of problems. Remember, 2006 was a very, very bad year for Idaho Democrats, losing every single statewide and Federal race since the days of Herbert Hoover. One of the reasons was that Karl Rove tactic of putting a gay marriage amendment on the ballot. ‘Nuf said.

In the 2008 primary, Sali was challenged by Matthew Salisbury, who ran his entire candidacy from his mother’s house, and who had about $4k a week before the election. Salisbury still managed to garner about 40% of the vote.

Sali is running against Walt Minnick, and before we get to Mr. Minnick, let’s take a look at Sali’s current situation. First, he’s got a financial debt problem from the 2006 campaign, and his prime consultant (and personal friend) has him on a cash-only basis. He’s got about half the cash Minnick does, and 86% of Sali’s cash on hand is equal to his current debt load.

Now, onto Mr. Minnick. First, he is one of the DCCC’s 14 candidates in the Red-to-Blue program. . He has both a Law Degree and an MBA from Harvard, in a year when smart candidates are running well. He is a successful businessman, and a Vietnam Vet. He’s got support from Act Blue and the Red State Rebels, a progressive group in Idaho. He’s got great stands on the issues, which I don’t need to repeat to you, because if you read DCW there is an astronomically high probability that you share the same stands.

So it always comes down to this: you have a great candidate running against an unpopular first-termer who supports the Iraq war, works well with Larry “too wide a stance” Craig, has a reactionary position on illegal immigration, and wants off-shore drilling. In fact, if you read Sali’s positions it becomes hard to consider voting for him; even though the issue frame is from HIS site, and not a left-interpretation of his views. But incumbents have an advantage if for no other reason than their name is better known.

Still, I think Minnick has a chance -- while it’s unlikely that Obama will take Idaho, he may capture just enough of the vote to put Minnick over the top.