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Posts published in September 2008

A paper trail

Those following the Sarah Palin story will definitely want to make for the review in the Seattle Times today of what has emerged from three boxes of court records in a Seattle federal warehouse, the recorded remains of a wrongful-termination lawsuit stemming from actions and developments from Palin's first year as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

From the Times report: "She became embroiled in personnel challenges, a thwarted attempt to pack the City Council and a standoff with her local newspaper. Her first months were so contentious and polarizing that critics started talking recall. Her first months also exposed threads that would later become patterns — friends become enemies, enemies become friends and questions get raised about why she fired this person or that person."

The picture, a near-blank 10 days ago, continues to fill in.

The late, different, votes

We have no conclusive explanation for it, and neither did Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune, but the overall trend was decisive enough to be real and clear: The very last voters in the Washington primary election were Republican voters, by a big margin.

The stats, from Callaghan's column today: "On the day after the election, Gov. Chris Gregoire held a 4.1 percentage-point lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi. But when the final county tallies were in, Gregoire’s advantage had narrowed to just 1.9 percent. Attorney General Rob McKenna’s lead over Democratic challenger John Ladenburg grew from 12 points to 14; U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s lead over Democrat Darcy Burner went from 3 points to 4 points." And so on - you'll find the pattern repeated elsewhere.

Explaining this, or working through whatever its significance is, is more difficult than saying it's happened. A Rossi backer suggested that later voters got to know Rossi better and liked what they saw; but that runs into the problems of only a day or two difference in voting time, and into the problem of the voting differential extending across Republican candidacies.

In the last decade over in Idaho, we noted that when that state moved to some-day registration (as opposed to requiring registration in a period that ended several days previously), the Republican percentage rose a notch. Of course, 1992 and 1994 (when this happened) were strongly Republican years anyway for a variety of reasons. But we also found, in precinct breakdowns, that places where same-day registrants were larger portions of the electorate, were the same places where Republicans made their greatest gains.

Exactly what that means isn't at all clear, and your explanation of it may have more to do with what you think of Republicans (or Democrats) than anything else. But there's surely a lesson to be learned in this, if someone can get a handle on it . . .

WA: “Another one bites the dust”

Awhile back, we started a list of Idaho journalists who left that profession, but not the state, to take another kind of job. A whole lot of those jobs have involved working as spokespeople for a government agency or a corporation.

Need to start working on comparable lists for Washington and Oregon. Notably, with the news that Washington's top-placed political reporter, David Postman, is leaving the Seattle Times (where he's been doing some solid blogging) and journalism, to go to work for Paul Allen's Vulcan, Inc. - media relations.

As newspapers seemingly circle the drain, where else will all those journalists go? More to the point, where will we get actual journalism from?

Palin in Oregon?

The first indicator we've seen of a fall appearance by one of the major presidential/vice presidential nominees: A report that Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin may come to Oregon for a fundraiser? How solidly it's sourced isn't clear, but interesting if true.

Do you suppose she'll answer questions . . . or say something unscripted?

Lotsa colleges

Something more on the Sarah Palin front - nothing scandalous, but seemingly a curiosity.

In Idaho, there's been mention that she attended North Idaho College at Coeur d'Alene, and later the University of Idaho at Moscow.

And so she did, but there's more to it. Her collegiate career started, for one semester, at Hawaii Pacific University (though no press release there noting her as an alumna). From there she went to NIC for a year, and then UI for a year. And then back home to Alaska, to the Matanuska-Susitna College (at Palmer, close to Wasilla), for a semester, after which she returned to the UI for another year, at which point she got her degree in journalism.

Nothing wrong with moving from one college to another; lots of students do. But the number of moves is interesting, and the coursework needed for a journalism degree (or a polisci minor) wouldn't have been especially specialized, and could be gotten in many places. Any thoughts as to why so many transfers may have happened in this case?

Pointed to the door

We suggested some posts back that if the Idaho race for the U.S. Senate got close enough, that the minor-candidate factor could start to come into play. Put another way, Democrat Larry LaRocco will have a difficult time getting to 50% of the vote to defeat Republican Jim Risch, but he might be able to do it with, say, 45% if the various other candidates for the Senate - including a Libertarian and two independents, all self-described conservatives - pull enough votes.

Apparently we're not alone in thinking so. The Libertarian in question, Kent Marmon (who has run previously as a Republican) says that Representative Bill Sali personally asked him to drop out, because their runs might hurt Risch's chances. Evidently leading Republicans have called the other two - businessman Rex Rammell of eastern Idaho and the man name Pro-Life, of Emmett - and made similar appeals.

A sign the race may be closer than we think?

The Risch blog

Several months back, Republican Idaho Senate candidate Jim Risch said he didn't se e-mail and didn't much use the Internet - an expression, generally, of seeming dismissal of the new medium. There must have been some rethinking: Today, his campaign is announcing its new blog, complete with posts attributed to Risch.

Good move. In 2008, there's no political advantage in declaring yourself computer illiterate, and running a blog (as so many campaigns do now, including that of Senate Democratic candidate Larry LaRocco) is an easy way to convey that you're up to date and encourage inter-communication. And it helps if you're as articulate as Risch is.

His first substantive post comes from the national Republican convention. We'll be intrigued to see what he blogs about in the weeks to come.

The strip club rationale

The city of Eugene, with a population of around 150,000, has within its limits two strip clubs. Take the bridge across the Willamette River and you're in the city of Springfield, around 55,000, which has five and - if a new proposal is approved later this year - soon may have six. Why the disparity?

That's the subject of a fascinating story today in the Eugene Register-Guard, about the differences between the cities that have led to this specific commercial difference. Among the distinctions are the liveliness of the relative downtown areas (Eugene's looks a good deal more prosperous), differences in smoking rules (Eugene has banned smoking in bars since 2001) and the liquor law history of the two places: Eugene spent more of its history as a "dry" city, and Springfield as a "wet."

You can find other intriguing municipal comparisons that run somewhat this way (over in Idaho, Boise/Garden City and Pocatello/Chubbuck come to mind). The story is a recommended read for implications well beyond Lane County.

Comparisons: Boise vs. Wasilla

Members of Congress understandably love to tout the bacon they bring home to their states or districts, but rarely do we get the chance to compare how one fares against another.

Today we do, thanks to a Washington Post article about how "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group."

The Post ran a comparison. In 2002, at the end of Palin's service as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the city was pulling in $6.1 million in federal earmarks, owing largely to Palin's hiring of a lobby firm. The Post compared to that the amount Boise received in the last fiscal year, 2008, when Boise's population had topped 200,000: The amount was $6.9 million.

A bigger storm

Good news today for the Gulf Coast, that apparently Hurricane Gustav seems to be doing a good deal less damage than it might have - its strength and course happen to hit in such a way that for all the damage it will do, it could have done a lot more.

In presidential politics this Labor Day weekend, the Sarah Palin storm seems to be playing out in just the opposite way.

The Alaska governor, Republican vice presidential selection and ex-Idahoan (the latter our hook for getting into this at all here) is in a world of political trouble so severe that successfully turning it back - at least in the context of this presidential campaign - looks now to be all but impossible.

That's not because of any one thing. The Troopergate issue isn't necessarily fatal. Neither is the Bridge to Nowhere or earmarks discussion. Or the questions about experience (and foreign relation - see Alaska's proximity to Russia). Or the involvement with the Alaskan Independence Party, or support of Pat Buchanan. Or, certainly, the various pregnancy discussions (daughter's baby, the flight from Dallas, etc.), some or all of which shouldn't be part of a political discussion at all. Individually, these issues aren't fatal; they should be survivable.

It's that, all of a sudden, there's such a massive swarm of all these things. Look at this diary on Daily Kos, not for the specifics (which vary widely as matters of legitimate concern) but for their sheer number - within three days, 100 more "issues" with Palin, subjects and ideas that could cause her and her running mate (John McCain, remember?) potential damage. There are now so many Palin stories with stingers zipping through the air - can you remember a comparable case where so many emerged so fast? - that it is becoming impossible for the McCain campaign to swat them all. And the impression of wrongdoing, deceit and even strangeness (whatever the merits) is likely to take hold before long.

What is developing, what seems likely to emerge, is a sense that something is seriously wrong, that so much smoke sure means some fire somewhere, even if some of these criticisms don't pan out, as at least some surely won't.

That will be very difficult for Sarah Palin to survive, in the context of this presidential contest. How she and McCain respond to that . . . isn't easily predictable. Any more than her original choice was.