There'll be a big change in the representative Idaho's 1st House district gets the next couple of years - a soft-spoken pragmatist. Democrat Walt Minnick, replacing an ideologue prone to controversy and conflict, Republican Bill Sali. In personality, Minnick is a lot closer in style to the new senior senator, Mike Crapo, than Sali is. In policy, Minnick is doubtless well aware that he can go only but so far, and may well take advice from Crapo (and probably from some Democrats too) that he join the Blue Dogs.
Minnick will of course be immediately targeted by any number of Idaho Republicans, and the 2010 Republican primary for the 1st might even be as crowded as the jam-packed '06. Point A here might be that, we all saw what emerged from that one, so caution in making predictions is warranted. Point B would be that - the closeness of Tuesday's result and the difficulty Republicans have had in winning this seat (just four years in the previous 40) notwithstanding - any anticipation Minnick will be a pushover would be misplaced. When Democrat Richard Stallings defeated Republican incumbent George Hansen in 1984 (just after Hansen's felony convictions), a long line of Idaho Republicans figured he'd be easy pickings in 1986. Stallings went on to win that year decisively, and twice more after that in landslides. Could as easily be that Minnick is in this seat for a spell.
All sorts of analysis suggests itself coming out of this win - which we had considered possible but somewhat short of likely - but the most immediate seems to be this: What in the 1st district changed, just enough, to allow Minnick a win?
Start with the fact that this was a close win, 50.6% in a two-man race. When Minnick writes in his post-election email about going to a fitful sleep on election night, not whether he'd win or lose, that makes sense. There could have been no certain way of knowing until the mid-morning hours arrived. A few things had changed, just enough, to allow for it. (more…)