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Posts published in October 2006

A proposal for restoration

The winding down of this year's campaign means time is coming not only to vote but also to consider how this process can be improved next time. Do we really want a 2008 campaign season that becomes simply a bigger and badder version of this one? Thought not (for most of us, that is).

Here's one such suggestion (we will have more soon).

Consider the Thursday ruling by the Supreme Court in Montana (Montanans for Justice v. State) throwing out (more precisely, declaring void) three ballot issues which actually will appear on the state's ballot. These issues were backed by some of the same outfits which sent their tentacles into Washington, Oregon and Idaho this season. Here's a piece of what the court said happened: (more…)

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. (more…)

Blowback?

The biggest political question in Oregon for the last several weeks - without a lot of visible poll results - is the state of play in the governor's race, between incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski and Republican challenger Ron Saxton.

Ted Kulongoski
Ted Kulongoski
Ron Saxton
Ron Saxton

Looks increasingly as if, after a stretch where the candidates were closely matched, the govenror has opened a substantial lead again.

We're not sure we buy the whole 11-point Kulongoski lead in the just-released Riley Research (of Portland) poll report (this copy by way of the Oregonian political blog). But, with maybe a few points shaved off, it does match other scraps of evidence we've encountered lately about the top Oregon contest. (more…)

The Final Push

We now have it definitively from the National Republican Congressional Committee: The top three U.S. House races in the Northwest - Washington 5 and 8 and Idaho 1 - are among the 33 top races in the country. All three, we know courtesy of The Hill newspaper, have placed on the NRCC's "Final Push List."

That list is about focusing financial help to specific campaigns. PAC Director Jenny Sheffield was quoted: “…it’s crucial at this point to send in some late money to some [of] our campaigns. The funds our candidates receive now will allow them to increase their TV buys and will make the difference on Nov. 7. I have attached our Final Push list for those Members and candidates most in need of support right now. If your boss has not maxed out to those on the attached list, please ask him or her to consider sending a check from a leadership PAC and/or reelection account … IMMEDIATELY!”

You sense a tone of urgency. Considering how securely Republican the three Northwest districts have been in recent elections, this is a remarkable admission (and backs up Cathy McMorris' comments last week that the Washington 5th is in play).

Goal

We shouldn't let this go unnoted, if only as a model for next time around: Idaho 2nd District House candidate Jim Hansen's fundraising.

Jim HansenHansen, a Democrat, is running a steeply underdog campaign against incumbent Republican Mike Simpson. Money was certainly never going to come easy, and Hansen decided early on that he would accept no PAC money, only contributions of $100 or less. His argument: “If at least 5,000 people donate $100 that ought to be enough to run a congressional campaign without going to the PACs and lobbyists that are strong-armed by Congress to fork over huge contributions every day. It is a leap of faith based on Jim’s convictions. The consultants inside DC think it’s nuts, but virtually every person Jim talks to in Idaho - ordinary voters - appreciate it as a principled stand. It is only risky if everyone who agrees with Jim sits back and does nothing.”

He acknowledged he'd draw some skepticism, and probably did. We weren't dismissive, though, having seen the recently-developing power of grassroots fundraising.

So what has Hansen raised?

As of September 30, according to federal finance reports, he pulled $110,888, all of it from individuals.

Simpson has overall raised much more, $467,776 (and could have raised more, no doubt, if he felt more strongly threatened). But he raised $126,755 from individuals, not so much more than Hansen.

In today's context, $110,000 (and Hansen has doubtless raised more since September) isn't usually enough to win a congressional seat, but it is enough to get one's word out.

Something interesting is going on.

Hangin’ in

The absolute assertion in today's lead Salon article that Madison County, Idaho - and notably its main city, Rexburg - is "the reddest place in America," is open to some dispute. We can cite a county or two in Idaho that may statistically surpass it, and elsewhere around the country there may be a few more. But that feels like a quibble; certainly you'll not find many places more Republican in 2006 than the home of the Brigham Young University-Idaho, an institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Rexburg cityHave been there many a time over three decades, we can testify that writer Tim Grieve well captured the political nature of the place. Anyone interested in why much of Idaho, including much of eastern Idaho, is as it is, would do well to read it, though Rexburg sets somewhat apart from most other Idaho communities by virtue of the presence of the explosively growing BYU-I, which is just as conservative if not more so than its parent, BYU in Provo, Utah.

Grieve might be interested to know that, though Rexburg has for a century and more been overwhelmingly Mormon (recent estimates put the church's portion of the population at well upward of 90%), it has not always been single-party. A generation ago it regularly elected Democrats alongside Republicans to the legislature and courthouse, and one of the leading families in town, in local politics and as owners of the local paper, were staunch Democrats. But those days appear to be past.

As this passage indicates:

And perhaps the results are preordained because of the monolithic influence of the Church of Latter Day Saints. As BYU-I English professor Dawn Anderson tells me, it's important to understand that most voters in Madison County are Mormons, and that "everything of a political nature" has to be understood in that context.

"The climate surrounding faithful membership in this organization is not always conducive to challenging authority," she says. "People here are reluctant to openly criticize the president and his administration, even if they privately disapprove of his job." And many of them don't disapprove, even privately. "After 20 years of teaching Mormon students, I've learned that the majority of them have little knowledge of issues outside the Republican platform. They only know that Democrats are lesbian baby-killers."

She's not being figurative. Anderson also recounts: "She remembers the time when a group of classmates followed her third-grader home, shouting out 'baby-killer' all along the way. She took it up with the teacher, who didn't seem to mind."

Anderson (who is a Democrat) doesn't go on to say whether the BYU-I students, when they cast their votes, genuinely feel they are casting well-informed votes. But in this particular college town, such a concept takes on a framework all its own.

If Idaho largely remains, in this year of the blue wave, determinely red, there are reasons.

CORRECTED to change the name of publication to the (correct) Salon.

OR: Ballots hit home

In Oregon as nowhere else, the general election campaign jumps the shark today. By now, just about all Oregonians have received their ballots, and today they begin to vote; "election day" November 7 merely marks completion of the process.

ballots The campaign is hardly over, however: People do not cast their votes all at once. So to what extent do the remaining ads, campaigns, statements, news items and so on still count for something? A substantial amount, apparently.

We can put numbers to it. The Oregon Secretary of State's office tracks the number of ballots returned by day, and from those numbers we can pull some trends.

The patterns differ for primary and special elections, but general election returns tend to be bunched near the end. In the 2004 general election ballot returns were fairly spread out, only modestly bunched at the end (40% of returns in the last three days, out of 13 days available). But in the 2002 general election, 55% of all returns came in the last three days out of 13. And in the 2000 general, 54% arrived in the last three of 12 days, the number was 51% in 1998.

Some of this may reflect active get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns which track who has and hasn't yet voted (which is not especially hard to do), and then getting their people to send in those ballots. Some of it may reflect procrastination.

But while those late voters don't eliminate the value of late campaigning, the half or so that vote earlier do wipe out many of the late slime campaigns voters elsewhere are accustomed to.

Endorsement Sunday: wrapping up

In Oregon, ballots already are in the mail (some may have received them Saturday, most others should on Monday), so endorsements are long done. Although the Portland Oregonian is still dealing with fallout from last Sunday's gubernatorial endorsement of Republican Ron Saxton: the paper says that somewhere near 400 letters to the editor flooded in last week in protest.

Will any of these other regional endorsements generate such response?

They tend not to generate a lot of surprise.

SEATTLE TIMES/SENATE Not a big shocker, that the Times went for Republican Mike McGavick over Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell (whom it endorsed six years ago). But the language seemed tepid. It didn't much blast Cantwell, who (it said) has a decent record, taking issue mostly with her "caution." The McGavick praise seemed a little narrow, praising mostly his spirit of innovation.

So the paper left itself open to an increasingly frequent charge, really needing to address it - as it did: "Critics will note that McGavick supports the elimination of the federal estate tax, a cause for which The Seattle Times has campaigned many years. That is part of why we endorse him, but not most of it." How much of it will be a topic for easy dispute.

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER/SENATE Elsewhere in the same large bundle of paper on Washingtonians' doorsteps today they will find the PI's opposing take on the race. (Times goes R, PI goes D; okay, got it.) Their take, with a more definitive tone than the Times', concluded, "With America needing to fix off-track federal leadership, every Senate vote counts. Maria Cantwell is the candidate for a real change in course." (more…)

WA 5: (Overheard) it’s closing

Our Thursday post on the regional U.S. House races listed Washington's 5th district contest, between incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris and Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark, as a serious contest - running up steadily to the point that it now merits serious watching.

We half-expected some counter on that from some area Republicans, and surely would have a few months ago. But conditions have changed, that assessment is mainstream, and now comes confirmation that the race is closing from none other than McMorris.

We got this courtesy of a glitch in telephone technology and Spokane Spokesman-Review political reporter Jim Camden. Camden on Thursday had dialed in to listen to a McMorris town hall session on veterans. Placed on mute (so that he couldn't participate) - but inadvertently not on hold, like other participants, which would have blocked the private conversation - he overheard some pre-meeting chatter between McMorris and Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who chairs the Senate committee on veterans services. During that short conversation, McMorris told Craig, "It's a closer race than I first imagined," and advised her fellow Republican that Goldmark was "hitting very hard" on veterans issues.

Craig's response was that nationally, "The new numbers are just devastating."

This looks to be turning into an unusual political season.

Faith-based

The ist district House race remains Topic A in Idaho - and beyond: We just got off the phone with a reporter from the Washington Post, so look for an ID-1 piece there soon - so: Here's another log on the fire . . .

We'll refer now to the blog byBubblehead (a term derived from his years in military submarine service, in case you wondered), a Republican who has issues with Republican 1st district House nominee Bill Sali. This paragraph in a recent post caught our attention. (more…)