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Posts published in August 2010

Why the odds are with Minnick

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…)

Well, uh, that Tea Party

One of the more powerful video takedowns of an opponent so far in this year's cycle. And it could be replicated in a lot of places outside of Washington's 2nd district, which - Democrat Rick Larsen's consistent wins there notwithstanding - is leans Democratic only a little, and could readily elect a Republican.

Probably not, though, one like the local voters think of in the way Republican John Koster is portrayed here.

Hat tip/Horse's Ass.

A QUOTE A reader sent, a few weeks ago, this quote about the Tea Party and similar aggregations, which synthesizes some of what this ad seems to be getting at, maybe a little more pungently (but no less usefully):

"A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets. Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob."

Oh, and this: "They are apocalyptic pessimists about public life and childlike optimists swaddled in self-esteem when it comes to their own powers."

This week in the Digests

weekly Digest

A number of cultural indicators turned up in news last week. Some were physical: The revived blasts over the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel, a subject that had been apparently resolved not so many months ago, but takes on new life in this time of budget cuts and worries of cost overruns. And there's the much-remarked comments of Boise State University President Bob Kustra, aimed at the University of Idaho - a subject guaranteed to generate a lot of hot discussion.

Elsewhere, life goes on. A major new report on the practicalities of rebuilding the Interstate 5 Columbia River crossing hit via the governor's offices; and a new major solar power business announces a ramup at Gresham.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.