Examination of Idaho elections has become something resembling an expedition of researchers digging up fragmentary and very subtle clues about an ancient civilization. The clues being sought after following an Idaho election concern this question: Is Idaho's "conservative" politics changing, or not?
Not in a decade and a half have the answers changed dramatically. Occasionally you spot something here or there to indicate alteration at the edges, but nothing to suggest a sea change.
Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey latched onto a useful metric for his piece today on the election: The primary battle between Senator Shirley McKague and her challenger, Representative Mark Snodgrass, in fast-growing Meridian. It's a clear and undiluted metric between two Republicans but of clearly different sorts. McKague is described (fairly) as "a self-professed 'firebrand conservative' and 'lapsed' member of the extremist John Birch Society. A reliable vote against change . . ." Snodgrass is "pro-life and pro-business," but also considered a relative moderate in the Idaho House (he'd probably be considered in the middle or slightly to the right of the Republican caucuses in Washington or Oregon); he has also worked on regional infrastructure and other needs, the sort of changes McKague routinely opposes. Both candidates were backed by solid organizations.
A clear contest, all right. McKague prevailed, 53%-47%. Not a big margin. But she won. The close margin suggests some softening in the appeal of the hard-line message; the final result indicates it still has enough appeal to win. (more…)