Oct 29 2006


Published by at 12:16 pm under Idaho

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?

Start with the caveats. Polling in Idaho is always iffy, done by the best of firms and in the best of ways. We’ve long been convinced significant numbers of Idahoans lie to pollsters (some of the matchups historically between polling and voting results suggest as much). There’s a traditional gap, historically of around 5%, shorting Republican support in pre-election polls – in one of the Statesman stories on this poll, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady said he agrees with that view (shared as well by former Republican Governor Phil Batt). And we should note that while the statewide margin of error is a fairly normal 4%, the MOE in the 1st district – Sali-Grant – is a high 6%, a serious limitation on the confidence we should attach to the figures there.

All that said, a few other thoughts jump out.

The poll clearly indicates a reason for throwing big money in the 1st district race, and for a reason suggested also by the Greg Smith poll from August: There are a lot of undecided voters in the first district, meaning that the race is evidently not settled and up for grabs. The indication is that much of this springs from concerns about Sali, who – the poll says – has a 35% unfavorability, higher than any of the other candidates for major office. Bit advertising money can help repair that, but that repair probably wouldn’t be helped if the coming air blitz, most of it heavily financed outside Sali’s campaign, is – as appears likely – aimed at destroying Grant instead of boosting Sali.

There’s some suggestion too that Republican gubernatorial candidate Butch Otter has been hurt by back choices combined with bad timing.

Earlier this year, a political analogy suggested itself easily in the race for governor: In 1998, U.S. Senator Dirk Kempthorne swooped in and, without breaking a sweat, made some easy rounds in what amounted more to coronation than to serious campaigning, and he won easily. Otter, also a familiar and generally popular political figure in Idaho, also conservative and Republican, also raising and spending far more than his Democratic opponent, also a beneficiary of the state’s strong Republican infrastructure, also a skilled campaigner, looked to do the same thing. But he’s run into problems. His headlines this year have been awful, from alliance with a federal lands selloff plan (which he later repudiated and apologized for) to refusal to appear at a public television debate (a decision he may now regret). For all that Otter now (in the Statesman) refers to campaigning as if he were behind, you’ll not find many political people in Idaho who think he has: Most think that by historical standards of running for governor, he’s campaigned hardly at all. And Congress, from whence Otter is coming, is a whole lot less popular now than it was in 1998. And, while Kempthorne faced a Democratic opponent whose campaign sputtered and finally gave up completely in the last of the campaign, Otter faces one re-energized by the polling news and national assistance, who will at a minimum be highly visible and active through election day.

And maybe most of all, Kempthorne didn’t have to campaign in a national atmosphere so toxic to Republicans that it seems to have permeated even Idaho.

All those factors just noted may have contributed to something else: Otter’s relatively high – 27% – unfavorability rating, second only to Sali’s (and well higher than Democrat Brady’s 14%). One of Otter’s best assets is his personal campaigning self; the man is as naturally skilled a campaigner as Idaho has seen. The catch is that he hasn’t been doing a lot of it, and he may be starting to pay for it.

Is this race close? It could be.

We’re now in the final stages, and much of what remains (other than late air attacks) will be ground war: Getting one’s voters to the polls. Historically, Republicans have been heavily outperforming Democrats in this area.

But there’s a joker in this pack: The hidden core of Democratic voters. About a decade ago, after crushing and accelerating losses in the state in 1992, 1994 and 1996, a large number of Democratic-leaning voters – in our count, somewhere around 50,000 of them – gave up and quit voting. Democratic numbers after 1996, into 2004, fell consistently by about that amount in part for that reason. What if the changed atmosphere, polls and prospects bring many of them back to the polls this year? And depress Republican turnout?

The last week of this may be notably critical in Idaho.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Comments are closed at this time.

Share on Facebook



WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.



This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.



"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.


Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.


by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)



NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?


The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)


by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.


How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.