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Not just where, but why, the money

Do the national Republicans appreciate the extent to which this is beginning to make Republican Bill Sali look ever more like a seriously at-risk candidate in a heavily Republican district?

Word up today that yet another massive buy on Sali’s behalf from a national Republican committee – at a time when national Republican money has been pulled from some states – and that Vice President Dick Cheney will pay yet another another visit to the 1st district, once again to help Sali. There seems to be no bottom to the generosity of the national Republicans and allied groups (hello, Club for Growth) on this race – by election day, their independent expenditures on Sali’s behalf will approach the total campaign expenditures of Sali and Democrat Larry Grant taken together. What the national Republicans will spend in the last month of this campaign, in fact, probably will exceed Grant’s total spending (which has not been shabby for a Democrat) all year. That’s in addition to the Club’s central underwriting ever since last fall of much of Sali’s campaign treasury.

Gee, you’d think these guys didn’t have confidence in Sali to do his own thing. Which raises the question: To what extent is Sali doing his own thing?

It suggests two more questions too.

One is the question of why – Why Idaho 1?

National Republicans are right now like head surgeons at a massive battlefield hospital, a MASH unit, overwhelmed by casualities who need immediate attention – in this case, financial – while their available resources are limited. They have a lot of money to dispense, but it isn’t infinite. The triage must be painful. We’ve seen the reports about national Republican efforts pulling out of Senator Rick Santorum’s re-election campaign in Pennsylvania, with the result that he’s running out of money and has “gone dark” – no TV ads – at least temporarily and maybe for the last couple weeks of the campaign. Santorum’s pain is shared by quite a few other Republican campaigns around the country.

But not Sali’s. In a national view, one would think Sali’s campaign has two strikes against: The fact that he’s not an incumbent (Santorum is a Senate Republican leader); and the district, a solidly Republican place where, even if Sali loses now, a Republican presumably would have a decent shot in 2008.

We’ll be pondering what makes Sali or his race or his district so notably key in a national context. No easy answers come to mind (other, possibly, than the sheer embarrassment of losing a House seat in Idaho).

Meantime, we also might ponder this. Is there something wrong when national interests come to not merely participate in (as they always do) but to dominate – in ways we have not seen in years past – a local congressional race? Whose interests – surely not the constituents’ – are really being serviced? Does something about that seem not quite right?

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