In this election, one of the most remarkable results in the northwest is this: Walt Minnick won.
It is a narrow win, and by many standards it shouldn't have been especially notable. Minnick was a good candidate, smart and personable, had run statewide before (in 1996 for the Senate) and learned from the experience, and his campaign was first-rate. Sali was regarded even by many Republicans as a not very strong legislator, and phrases like "brain fade" and "absolute idiot" have permeated. Sali's campaign has been in debt, was underfunded compared to Minnick's, and until the last few weeks seemed sluggish and low key.
And these all seem to be key factors, because Minnick's win wasn't like that of many other Democrats around the country: It's wasn't atmospheric, not part of the rolling Obama thunder. That's simple to say because Minnick's campaign stands out in Idaho as virtually the only thing to change in partisan politics in the state from two, four, six, eight, 10 years ago.
The Idaho Senate race took on numbers typical of that era - 58% Republican (Jim Risch), 34% Democratic (Larry La Rocco, despite running almost astonishingly hard and over so many months). 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson pulled 71%, about his normal number - no diminishing this year. Legislative numbers didn't budge; some Republicans who seemed endangered last time (like state Senators John Goedde, Joe Stegner and Lee Heinrich) cruised this time. Ada County Democrats did succeed - and it was a real success, in the face of determined Republican pushback - in holding on to the brace of legislative seats they won in 2006, a sign Boise is digging in as a blue city. But instead of winning a majority on the Ada County Commission, they lost what might have been their landmark race (with Democrat David Langhorst) and on top of that lost their incumbent Democratic commissioner (Paul Woods).
That's why Minnick's win is so remarkable. Narrow as it was, just over 3,000 votes over Sali, it stood in sharp relief to everything else in Idaho. And not only that, everything else for a period of years - it's been exactly a decade since the last major Republican official in Idaho lost to a Democrat (that would be Superintendent of Public Instruction Anne Fox, who lost to Marilyn Howard). Republican incumbent losses just don't happen in Idaho.
But it did this time. It's only the slimmest tint of purple, but all of a sudden Idaho is no longer pure blue.