Walt Minnick (center) gets the associated contractors endorsement on Wednesday/Minnick campaign
Walt Minnick, Idaho's 1st district Democratic representative, must be living right. Four months ago, this space had no serious doubts that he was unlikely to win re-election. Today (and really for the last month or two), he looks to have a clear path to re-election.
That's not a change of mind. It's a change of circumstance. And today, as the the Associated General Contractors of Idaho deliver their endorsement for Minnick, seems as reasonable a time as any to talk about that.
Some things from four months ago have not changed, or changed a lot. Minnick's status as an incumbent has undoubtedly helped; Idaho voters don't lightly toss out major-office incumbents, even Democrats - ousting no major-office Democrat since 1994, while re-electing several of them in the years since. And Minnick and his campaign people have been aware since election day 2008 that the re-election campaign had to start right then, and they've been at it aggressively ever since. Their campaign has made hardly any slips. Also, Minnick may not be Mr. Charisma, but he makes a positive impression, and a lot of people around the district like him. That includes a lot of Republicans.
The problems have been - and if Minnick does lose, still are - larger-picture. A whole lot of Idaho Republicans and a lot of independents - who in Idaho lean strongly Republican - simply are loathe to vote for a Democrat and would hesitate to do it with a gun at their heads; our estimate is that 45% of the 1st district electorate is in this category. The political atmosphere this year, magnified somewhat in Idaho, should make that even more true. And while Minnick has taken great care to not upset Republicans, he has upset a lot of Democrats. Some of them will be less inclined to work as hard for him. Some of them - we've talked to a number of veteran Democratic activists - say they simply will deny him their vote in November.
That's a formula for a Minnick loss. But since late winter, the calculus has changed in a big way on the Republican side. No election is ever won or lost for just one reason; but that change now looks to be the biggest reason Minnick probably will win this year.
Last winter, the Republicans had in Vaughn Ward a candidate well positioned for the race. Several components went into that. He appeared to have come out of nowhere, and a year ago effectively dispatched an established state legislator (Ken Roberts) months before the primary. He did that partly on the basis of sounding like the kind of Republican firebrand taking off around the country.
But two things happened. (more…)