Idaho Archive:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

ID-Gov, ID-01: Tossups

Posted by James L.

A new Mason-Dixon poll confirms what many on the ground in Idaho have been predicting: Democrats are in a statistical dead heat in both the Governor's and 1st District races. I can't find the actual raw numbers just yet, so we'll have to make do with this:

Democrats haven't won a governor's race since 1990 or a seat in Congress since 1992, but a call for change nationally is reaching Idaho. Coupled with Republican candidates who inspire negative feelings, Democrats have a shot.

In the governor's race, Republican U.S. Rep. Butch Otter leads Democratic newspaper owner Jerry Brady by a single percentage point. Republican state Rep. Bill Sali has a 2 percentage point lead over Democratic businessman Larry Grant for the congressional seat that runs from West Boise north to Canada. In the race to oversee public schools, Democrat Jana Jones leads Republican Tom Luna by 3 percentage points.

All three are statistical dead heats. The survey of 625 likely voters was conducted for the Idaho Statesman and Today's 6, the local ABC affiliate. The margin of error statewide is plus or minus 4 percentage points; in the 1st District that rises to 6 percentage points. Likely voters were polled last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research of Washington, D.C. (emphasis added)

I won't keep it a secret: what's going on in Idaho is my favorite story of this cycle. Even in the reddest of red America, the GOP's lurch towards extremism coupled with a Democratic renaissance at the grassroots level has the potential to result in several major upsets this year:

"At this point in a typical campaign, Idaho Democrats are dispirited and looking for moral victories," said Jim Weatherby, a political scientist who has overseen polling at Boise State University. "This time, it looks like they may actually pull off some major victories."

In follow-up interviews with 42 polled voters, the Statesman learned they want change largely because of disapproval of President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Idaho GOP Chairman Kirk Sullivan said the national mood is hurting Republicans in the reddest of states. "Idaho has been rather immune to the attitude and mood of the public across the nation," he said. "But this time, based on the amount of coverage that appears to be anti-Bush and anti-war, I believe that attitude has invaded Idaho," he said.

A blue Idaho would fit perfectly right beside a blue Montana, don't you think?

Posted at 11:33 AM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, October 21, 2006

ID-01: Club For Growth Bails Out Endangered Sali

Posted by James L.

Man oh man; I love it when an extremist Republican scheme backfires, especially when we're talking about the dogmatic anti-government agenda of the Club For Growth. Knowing that their extremist politics could only stand the chance of finding recognition in the most conservative of districts, the Club For Growth targeted primaries in solid Republican districts like NV-02 (R+7.5), NE-03 (R+23.6), and CO-05 (R+15.7), backing the most rigidly conservative and anti-government candidates they could find. The only problem, though, is that the Club has picked less than top-shelf candidates to act as their ideological flag-bearers in deep Republican territory. In Idaho's 1st district, as everyone knows by now, CFG members funneled $350k to onesuch flawed candidate, state Rep. Bill Sali, and spent an additional $133k on independent expenditure ads to help him eke out an underwhelming 26% victory in a crowded Republican primary back in May.

The story was supposed to end there. The Republican primary was supposed to be the real election, given that this district delivered nearly 70% of its vote to Bush in 2004. But an energetic and committed core of local Democratic activists and organizers were not willing to let an embarrassment like Sali become their next voice in Washington, and rallied around the upstart candidacy of Larry Grant, a respected local business leader. (The netroots entered the fray in August.) And with Sali's divisive and unproductive reputation preceding him, Sali has failed to gain much traction.

With several polls showing Grant nipping at Sali's heels, the NRCC has dumped almost $200k into this state in order to prevent a Democratic rout in Idaho, according to the latest FEC filings. And they're not done yet: the Club For Growth has scurried back into the fray, pumping in an emergency transfusion of $180k for oppositional TV ads against Grant earlier today. And knowing the Club For Growth, they're going to be leaving their kid gloves at home. Grant is within striking distance of costing them a crucial ally in the House, and they're not happy about it.

The Republican scramble to defend this GOP bastion is nothing short of remarkable in a district this red, but Grant is in danger of having his message swamped out by the NRCC and the Club For Growth. If I were running expenditures at the DCCC, I wouldn't pass this opportunity up. A candidate as bad as Sali is just too rare of an opportunity to let slip away. All the DCCC has to do is run an ad or two featuring Republican testimonials of Sali. Here are a few choice examples:

"That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body." (GOP Speaker of the Idaho House, Bruce Newcomb)
"I would not and do not and cannot endorse a liar for Congress." (GOP Canyon County commissioner Robert Vasquez).

Alternately, one could just quote Sali himself:
"With deep thinking and memory recall, I start getting real bad brain fade, and definitely some speech problems," placed side by side with his claim that "[for] much of the time in the Legislature, critical-thinking skills are not necessarily needed."

Bill Sali: his entire political career is a negative advertisement waiting to be written.

UPDATE: Whoa! It looks like Larry is two steps ahead of me. Check out this blistering attack ad hosted by the DCCC here. It hits on everything I wanted to see.

Posted at 07:55 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TX-17: NRCC Retreats, Circles the Wagons in... Idaho?

Posted by James L.

Another quick 'n' dirty update (I've got a major midterm tomorrow): from the indispensable Burnt Orange Report comes word of a full-scale retreat by the National Republican Campaign Committee in TX-17, home of the perennially-targeted Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards:

According to five television stations in the DFW market, the NRCC on Monday canceled its planned television ad buy on behalf of Taylor. The cancelled Taylor buy was valued at over $1.5 million and was scheduled to run in the last two weeks of the campaign.

One by one, Republicans are cutting the lifelines of even their most top-tier challengers, and focusing on precarious seats in purplish states like... Idaho. Yes, Idaho, home of one of the most surprisingly competitive congressional races this cycle:

At the same time, the National Republican Congressional Committee on Monday began buying tens of thousands of dollars of television airtime across the district to run a last-minute advertising blitz beginning today, broadcasters said. Democratic candidate Larry Grant said Idaho airwaves will be flooded with attack ads targeting him because Republicans are panicking.

“Our understanding is the NRCC has produced a negative ad, and they bought almost $400,000 to run these ads against me,” Grant said. “I think most folks are going to understand they are in trouble.”

$400,000 on a district that delivered 70% of its vote for Bush in 2004. Chew on that one. With the Republicans losing confidence in Van Taylor's campaign in TX-17 (a district that is just as Republican as ID-01), how often do we see the NRCC nervous about their ability to win in districts that have delivered 70% of their vote to Bush?

For just a taste of how awful Idaho Republican candidate Bill Sali is as a politician, check out his statement from four years ago on his mental affliction that he curiously refers to as "brain fade".

Posted at 04:24 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho, Texas | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, October 07, 2006

ID-01: Another Republican Takes Aim at Sali

Posted by James L.

The race for Idaho's first congressional district is one of the craziest scenarios this cycle. Just how awful must Bill Sali, the Republican nominee, be to give his Democratic opponent (netroots candidate Larry Grant) a chance to wage a competitive campaign for this open seat that delivered 69% of its vote to Bush in 2004? Pretty awful.

After squeaking out a victory with 26% of the vote in a very crowded GOP primary back in May, Sali's reputation as the embarrassment of the state House ("an absolute idiot" according to the Republican Speaker) hasn't done him any favors in his general election campaign. And now, Sali's runner-up in the primary, county commissioner Robert Vasquez (who is actually now waging a primary challenge to Sen. Larry Craig for the '08 nomination), is quite willing to bash Sali senseless in front of any reporter willing to listen:

Vasquez also took aim at Bill Sali, the Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District who defeated Vasquez in a six-way primary election. Sali took nearly 26 percent of the vote, Vasquez took 18.5 percent. The commissioner said that if both he and Sali end up representing Idaho at the nation's capital, he would not work with Sali on any legislation.

"I would have no problem working with any other member of Idaho's delegation," Vasquez said. "I cannot in my wildest imaging contemplate any issue that Bill Sali would champion that would be beneficial to Idaho or the United States of America instead of big business corporations."

The Spokesman-Review blog has more:

Today, in the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa, second-place finisher Robert Vasquez, a Canyon County commissioner, said he’d never vote for GOP primary victor Bill Sali because, “I would not and do not and cannot endorse a liar for Congress.”

Ouch. Meanwhile, Alan at Idablue has managed to find some of Sali's campaign paraphernalia.

Posted at 10:31 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, September 09, 2006

ID-01: Startling Poll Results Show Grant (D) Leading

Posted by James L.

So when I saw this posted by mcjoan on DailyKos after I got in tonight (08/28-09/01, likely voters, July in parens)...

Larry Grant (D): 22 (25)
Bill Sali (R): 14 (41)
Undecided: 61 (34)
MoE: ±7.4%

...I had to take a long, hard look at the ingredients list on this Stolichnaya bottle on my desk. Sali losing 27% since July? Undecideds doubling? My first inclination was to believe that this poll neglected to lump in "leaners"--voters not firmly committed to a candidate but leaning tentatively one way or the other. So I checked out the actual polling report (which you can find here in .DOC format courtesy of the Ridenbaugh Press), and, nope, "leaners" were indeed included here. My second reaction was that there must have been some kind of major methodological lapse that resulted in these crazy-ass numbers--a response that Idaho-based pollsters Greg Smith & Associates anticipated:

"The most striking finding from this study, certainly compared to the end-of-July study Greg Smith & Associates executed, is the significant shift in voter sentiment within the 1st Congressional District in just a month or so." Smith said. "The change is so dramatic that a person might wonder if there was some kind of significant methodological differences between the July and late August polls that would account for the change.

"The fact is, though, that other races are at roughly the same levels of support in both polls," Smith said. "The change is clearly a result of changing voter sentiment, not a change in polling methodology."

As they say, all the other results from this statewide poll reflect the conventional wisdom on the political culture of Idaho:

Office Republican % Democrat %
Governor Butch Otter 42% Jerry Brady 18%
Lt Gov Jim Risch 46% Larry La Rocco 23%
ID-01 Bill Sali 14% Larry Grant 22%
ID-02 Mike Simpson 61% Jim Hansen 19%
Superintendent Tom Luna 40% Jana Jones 29%

So every other major race in Idaho is playing out just as expected this election season... except for its first congressional district, according to this poll at least. As you may recall, Bill Sali, the Republican nominee is a reality-challenged state legislator whose abrasive tenure in the ID House caused his Republican colleagues to daydream about throwing him out of their office windows. If this poll is in reality's ballpark, it's quite likely that all the press coverage on the newly-minted Republican nominee has forced some of Sali's controversial career highlights to the surface. Smith & Associates cites this same reason in their analysis, as well (filter through the Republican-esque rhetoric about "Democrat partisans" and "media efforts" dragging Sali down--as if simple truth-telling is part of some scary liberal media agenda):

"Such charges as Sali’s perceived lack of ability to get along with other Idaho Legislators, and his unyielding adherence to political principle, seem to have gotten some traction with 1st District voters, and a ‘FUD’ factor (fear, uncertainty, doubt) appears to have taken hold," Smith said. “To this extent, the efforts of the media and Democrat partisans have been effective."

Idaho Republicans have already been scrambling to seal any cracks in the GOP base, ramping up attacks against Larry Grant's Republican supporters in a tone and volume that has the Ridenbaugh Press' Randy Stapilus raising his eyebrows, and wondering if the problem is deeper than it appears on the surface.

Whether it's in this election or the next, Sali is going to be as vulnerable as an Idaho Republican could be. Granted, this is Idaho, but Sali has a track-record of saying some incredibly stupid shit like boasting about how, even though he suffers from something that he affectionately refers to as "brain fade", he can adequately fulfill his duties as a legislator because "critical thinking skills are not required" in that line of work. His history in the state house was the laughingstock of the Republican caucus--at least until he won the nomination for the congressional seat. Now they're they're closing ranks and circling the wagons, fearing the prospect of a Democratic House of Representatives. But I'd be willing to bet that sending a man like Bill Sali to Washington will eventually produce a Jean Schmidt-style embarrassment of one kind or another.

For now, though, we have a tremendous opportunity to do a bit of party building while also causing a little mayhem behind enemy lines, so to speak. Your support for netroots-endorsed challenger Larry Grant will go a long way towards helping Larry spread his message throughout the district and give Bill Sali and national Republicans some heartburn this November.

Posted at 12:31 AM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, September 07, 2006

ID-01: What Parallel Universe Does Bill Sali Inhabit?

Posted by James L.

The Fox News universe, I guess (Lewiston Morning Tribune via Idaho's excellent F-words blog):

But, Sali insisted weapons were recently discovered and that early in the war weapons were spirited away to Syria. "I know that I saw it on the TV station," Sali said. "It might have only been on FOX, come to think of it."

... This man is the Republican congressional nominee for Idaho's 1st congressional district. It seems that he bases his foreign policy knowledge on hazy, vague memories of Fox News broadcasts from over three years ago. Seriously.

I think it's time to pull up the money quote again:

The [Republican] Speaker [of the Idaho House], Bruce Newcomb, told The Idaho Statesman, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper.”

Meanwhile, ID-01 voters have a reality-based alternative: netroots-endorsed Democrat Larry Grant.

Posted at 09:00 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, May 26, 2006

ID-01: Wingnut of the Year

Posted by James L.

It seems like every year, deep in the bowels of the reddest of red America, the Republicans manage to field a new candidate who pushes the limits of batshittery to unseen levels. Last year was Ohio's truly odious Jean Schmidt, and this year's could very well be state Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho, running for the open seat of vacating Rep. "Butch" Otter, who has his eyes set on the Governor's mansion. On Tuesday evening, Sali (with the help of a huge out-of-state fundraising push by the Club for Growth) came out on top in a six-way primary battle with 26% of the Republican vote. With a district that delivered 68% of its vote to George W. Bush in 2004, it'd normally be safe to say that just about any Republican could win this district in a cakewalk. Just about.

DailyKos diarist MrLiberal makes the case that the Republicans may have nominated someone, well, just a bit too nutty, even for deep red Idaho. It seems that the more one gets to know Bill Sali, the more one realizes how much of a repulsive knuckledragger he is. But don't take my word for it--just ask Bruce Newcomb, the Republican Speaker of the Idaho House:

Sali’s critics pointed to an incident earlier this month in which he insisted on discussing studies linking abortion to breast cancer during a debate on a bill to require doctors to inform women about abortion-related risks. The Idaho House Democratic leader, a survivor of breast cancer, walked out in tears, and her Democratic colleagues followed her.

The Idaho GOP leaders postponed the day’s business. The Speaker, Bruce Newcomb, told The Idaho Statesman, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper.” [emphasis added]

The flap disgusted even his Republican colleagues, and Newcomb subsequently stripped Sali of his committee assignments. But it's clear that Sali is the punching bag of Idaho's Republican circles, according to the Idaho Statesman:

Enmity toward Sali has bubbled in recent weeks. At an Otter for Governor fund-raiser last month, Newcomb was roasted as the guest of honor. Former state Rep. Bev Montgomery of Caldwell asked if Sali was in the room. He wasn't, but her question won a laugh.

She told a story of getting so frustrated with Sali she was ready to kill him. "Don't worry," she said Newcomb told her, "it'll be justifiable homicide." Bigger laugh.

It's one thing for an ex-lawmaker to poke fun. But Otter also made Sali a punch line of a joke involving former speaker and now-U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.

"Bruce has been a great speaker of the House," Otter said. "And as he told me, he learned everything that he knows from Mike Simpson. And that is why every time he has a bad day, he goes and beats the hell out of Bill Sali."

Another big laugh.

And who can blame them when Sali's backstory is filled with nuggets like this one (from the Statesman article):

In 2002, Sali angered colleagues when he said in a deposition that he was still "better than most" legislators despite his claim that he suffered from "brain fade" and impaired memory as a result of a car wreck.

"How shall I say this?" Sali said. "Much of the time in the Legislature, critical-thinking skills are not necessarily needed."

According to the Statesman, Idaho's other Representative, Mike Simpson, despises Sali, too--so much so that he even threatened to throw Sali out of his office window. (To which his colleagues replied: "The third floor wasn't high enough. You should have taken him up to the fourth floor.")

The Democratic nominee to face Sali for the open seat this November is Larry Grant, a presentable party player with a background in business and law. Grant is emphasizing ethics and the federal sale of National Forest lands in his campaign and has wrapped up the endorsements of what little is left of Idaho's Democratic establishment. Local Democrats are actually excited over a race that could produce some fireworks with Sali's involvement, even if it would be a tough hill to climb. For more local perspective from Idaho, check out the excellent Red State Rebels, whom I expect will give the blogosphere a front-seat view to the ID-01 race this season.

Posted at 03:36 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Idaho, Open Seats | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1) | Technorati

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