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Posts published in October 2006

One-car smashup

One of the core principles of Republican strategist Karl Rove is supposed to be: Hit 'em not where they're weakest, but where they're strongest. Undermine their core strength, amd they're in trouble.

In the Idaho 1st district race, Republican Bill Sali keeps doing it to himself.

Sali's core strength is supposed to be that he is an absolutist, rigorously pure of ideology - a black/white guy, no shades of gray at all.

Now comes a ballot issue on which Idaho voters will have to decide next week - an important one, on land use policy, Proposition 2 - and polls make clear that most Idahoans have figured out what they think. (Last weekend's Idaho Statesman/KIVI-TV poll shows the margin between favor/disfavor as close.) Elected officials and candidates have let loose their thoughts, as have just about all of the candidates for office.

Bill Sali apparently can't decide.

He told the Statesman that "it's one of the most complicated things I've read in my life." Too complicated for him but not for hundreds of thousands of Idaho voters and every other candidate on the ballot? (His opponent, Democrat Larry Grant, is in opposition.)

That lack of a position appears to obtain even though, as Prop 2 manager Laird Maxwell correctly notes, Sali has not protested Maxwell's listing of him as a Prop 2 backer on the initiative's web site.

Could the fact that some of Sali's key out of state backers support the measure have anything to do with his indecision?

We noted this pecuiarity several weeks ago, assuming it would be clarified before now. With a week left before the election, looks as if Sali may remain the fuzzy candidate clear to the end. (If that should change, we'll post to that effect.)

Earl at large

Oregon U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, represents the most liberal part of Oregon - his district consists mostly of Portland - but he's been getting a considerable dousing in more conservative waters as he campaigns for Democrats elsewhere.

Earl BlumenauerHe is only barely opposed in this election, and so has the free time. It may turn out to be useful experience if he winds up campaigning statewide in 2008. (Okay, he's done the disclaimers. But it remains a live possibility.)

Blumenauer's travelogue, which includes a fairly detailed section on his stopover and campaigning in Idaho, has been posted on Daily Kos.


Acall from the Associated Press/Portland this afternoon prompted the question: To what extent is the national political mood likely to influence down-ticket races? Or, will state and local Republicans pay the price for the unpopularity of Republicans based on the far coast?

The correct answer seems to be "sure - to some extent," which begs the question of to what extent, which is something we'll all be wiser about in another week. But some impact is highly likely.

Politicians are picking it up. Oregon's governor race is one of the clearest examples. It is not directly tied to the Bush Administration or to Congress - the candidates are not running for, never have run for and are not serving in federal office. But the swing in energy in Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski's campaign came suspiciously close to the time he and his ads starting linking - sometimes with subtlety, sometimes not - Republican Ron Saxton with Bush and Washington Republicans. And if that's a little subjective for you, the latest Saxton TV ad blitz - in which he acknowledges that he's a Republican but promises that he won't be too much of one - ought to be a convincer.

Or consider the numbers.

This is the rundown of partisan balance in the state Senate and House in Washington, Oregon and Idaho for the last two major wave elections, in 1994 and 1980. The numbers indicate the seats held by each party - listed as Republicans/Democrats - before and after those two elections, by chamber.

Yr/Chambr WA prv WA aftr OR prv OR aftr ID prv ID aftr
1994/Senate 21/28 24/25 14/16 19/11 23/12 27/8
1994/House 33/65 61/37 32/28 34/26 50/20 57/13
1980/Senate 19/30 25/24 7/23 9/21 19/16 23/12
1980/House 49/49 56/42 26/34 27/33 50/20 56/15


In all 12 transitions, Republicans gained seats - House and Senate, net totals, in all three states. The size of the gain was widely variable, though. They range from the astonishing Republican pickup of 28 House seats in Washington in 1994 - a number proportionately greater than in the U.S. House that year - down to the modest Oregon changes in 1980. (But remember that in the cases of the Washington and Oregon Senates, moreover, the numbers are held down because only half of those seats are up for election in a single two-year cycle.)

You can figure that the wind at the back of congressional Democrats will help their colleagues down-ticket. As to how much . . . there's a range of possibilities.

Broadcasting across

Open communications permeate our society too richly to allow the areas of political segregation - the cultural walls - we've built up, to last forever. Sooner or later someone figure out a way through them, and then the bricks will fall.

One of those might be an intriguing experiment in counterintuitive campaigning: Democrats, even somewhat liberal Democrats, campaigning in a theoretically Republican venue. In this case, Christian radio.

Three Oregon House Democratic candidates - Rob Brading, Charles Lee and David Edwards - have started advertising messages on Christian radio stations. The ads have a similar feel: In each, the candidate talks in an easy voice, about how his faith affects his candidacy. Lee, for example: “My father taught me that living by God’s Law makes life easy—all you have to do is tell the Truth and you’ll be fine. But he also taught me that the Truth needs courage and firm convictions to survive.”

All three are in serious races, Brading opposing House Speaker Karen Minnis, Lee against Representative Kim Thatcher and Edwards against Everett Curry - all three seats are substantially up for grabs, in politically marginal areas. (The most interesting of the three may be Edwards/Curry, since Curry is a pastor of a Baptist church in southern California, and since Edwards took a big hit in the Oregonian - including a pulled editorial endorsement - over a hotly disputed matter of political ethics.)

This reach for the "Christian vote" could - if it hits its target - have a real impact on the calculus in those places. We'll be checking back to see if it worked.

Dead trees fall, but . . .

The trend line is persistent: Newspaper subscriptions continue their downward plunge.

For the six months ending in September, circulation nationally fell another 2.8%. Exceptions appear, but the overall is clear enough, and of a piece with the trend line in the last decade and more.

In Seattle, that has meant more circulation losses at the two dailies, albeit at slower paces - they're sinking a little more slowly. The Seattle Times weekday circulation now stands at 212,691 (down, over six months, by 1.3%), the Post-Intelligencer at 126,225 (down 4.9%). For a close-in metro area of three million and more, that's shockingly low. The third-largest paper in the state, the Tacoma News Tribune, dropped 5.7% (now 116,150).

In 2000, the Times stood at 225,687, the P-I at 75,794.

And probably no one expects a reversal in the next six-month report.

This kind of trend line can't go on forever.

The sort-of bright spot for newspapers in this is that traffic on their web sites (from which they earn relatively little) is continuing a steady growth.

Question: When does the tail start wagging the dog? It's beginning to look as if you can pinpoint the date on the right kind of spreadsheet . . .

Endorsement Sunday: on Sali

Of the 1st district Idaho daily newspapers which endorse, we correctly estimated that Democrat Larry Grant either might sweep the endorsements over Republican Bill Sali, or all but one. (One more is yet to come in this race.)

The paper we were thinking might go for Sali was the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune, considering its usually very conservative editorial stands.

Not this time. Their editorial today is the thoroughgoing and powerful - and skillful - editorial blast against Sali we've seen all year. "Skillful" is added in because it did what is tough to do: It explains clearly why, though the candidate may be acceptable philosophically, he is unsuited for the job he seeks. It does so in fair and reasoned terms. Emanating from a solidly conservative editorial board, it has some chance of being taken more than usually seriously by conservative voters.

UPDATE: Corrected for prematurity; we had understood an endorsement had been made, which hadn't.


Today's Idaho poll offered up by Mason Dixon - broadly regarded as one of the better polling firms in the country - courtesy the Boise Idaho Statesman and KIVI-TV in Nampa, shows a general election campaign riding on the razor edge.

The core numbers are these:

Office Republican % Democratic % Undecided %
1st US House Bill Sali 39% Larry Grant 37% 21%
Governor Butch Otter 44% Jerry Brady 43% 12%
Lt Gov Jim Risch 45% Larry La Rocco 36% 18%
Supt Pub Instr Tom Luna 40% Jana Jones 37% 23%

That these numbers are as close as they are in Idaho is noteworthy on its face, and an indicator that recent polls showing a closing of the races are not outliers.

Looks like a serious horse race. But more specifically, what do we make of it? (more…)


By way of notation, for any interested . . . 'Twas almost exactly a year ago when this side moved from pure HTML to database (those older posts remain accessible through archives); we were loathe to let go hands-on site manufacture, but the demands of the modern web made it necessary, and WordPress software has been a worthy handler.

The features it made possible (common and ordinary among many web sites these days) probably contributed to this site's growth: Our average daily visits have more than tripled in the past year, and we don't seem to be levelling off. Total visits during that time stand at 314,388.

Thanks for stopping by. You're in growing company.

Perspective on ‘red to blue’

Democrats in eastern Washington and western Idaho were cheered this week when their candidates, Peter Goldmark and Larry Grant, in the 5th and 1st respectively, were upgraded to the national Democratic "red to blue" list - the party's list of hot and truly competitive races. Which both, in fact, seem to be.

A moment, please, for what this says in larger-picture perspective, as we look toward the election 10 days off. (more…)