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Jim Risch could lose

carlson CHRIS


Most voters start to pay attention to November elections after Labor Day. Here’s a gut guess that by mid-October Jim Risch will recognize that many voters have figured out he’s done nothing but vote no on everything, has been “mailing it in,” and is taking re-election for granted.

In addition, with virtually no television advertising, voters will have learned Risch has a worthy opponent who, if elected, will work for the people of Idaho. Yes, a perfect storm and a lucky break may have to happen to put Boise attorney Nels Mitchell in position to pull off the upset, but it could happen.

One key will be the phenomenal success Mitchell’s social media strategist, Morgan Hill, will enjoy. He convincingly can demonstrate his strategy is well on its way to penetrating homes of all voters who have computers.

Hill’s credentials are impeccable. Some credit him with the succcessful repeal of the “Luna Laws” because of his skill at using the Facebook connections of teachers and administrators to get out the repeal message. Republicans, with all their money, have nothing to match it.

Nels Mitchell is also demonstrating an ability to adapt as he campaigns. Initially, he talked only about Risch’s negatives. Now he skillfully weaves in a personal narrative that is starting to resonate.

And Risch is reacting. Mitchell has hit Risch hard in a newspaper ad that he will be a “working senator,” as opposed to the “coasting senator” Risch is. In an August appearance on a southeast Idaho radio station the friendly interviewer repeated a half dozen times how hard Risch is working for the people of Idaho.

It just ain’t so, but as Risch knows, you repeat the Big Lie often enough most people will believe it. However, in his case recent polling still shows his automatic re-elect to be well below the 50% number. For whatever reason, a lot of voters have doubts.

Mitchell’s challenge is to let voters know there is a worthy opponent without having virtually any money to build his name identification in the traditional way. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has from the very beginning written Mitchell off. This has led the traditional Labor PACS to follow suit and not contribute either. The advantage is Mitchell will arrive in D.C. beholden virtually to no one other than the people who elected him.

Since Mitchell, from his first day, also said he would only serve one term he will not have to spend time dialing for dollars begging special interest groups to contribute.

Mitchell’s stump speech is improving. While he still talks about raising the minimum wage so that it is closer to a living wage, he’s been smart enough to appeal directly to women voters by including the “equal pay for equal work” mantra as well as supporting other issues important to women voters.

If there is one constituency Risch is demonstrably weak with, it is women voters who know he is staunchly against all abortions, even doctor mandated therapeutic abortions to save the mother’s life. Risch’s vote againt funding programs designed to curtail the violence and abuse of women was also duly noted.

Furthermore, Mitchell is citing his work at the Security and Exchange Commission where he worked for five years. He is making it a crucial part of his personal narrative that led him to seek public office. He was on a team that went after corporations which feast off of sticking it to the middle class through fraudulent practices.

Mitchell can easily point to Risch’s switch and bait while governor of selling the Legislature on passing additional property tax relief for his large landholding supporters, and upping the sales tax which hits the middle class harder and further undercut state support for public education.

Risch told no one in advance he would personally benefit from the legislation which is an ethical lapse he cannot begin to defend. While it was an amount admittedly less than $5000 he still had an ethical obligation to disclose.

Finally, Mitchell’s campaign manager, former Idaho U.S. attorney Betty Richardson, ran the only camapign that handed Risch a defeat when she master-minded Mike Burkett’s upset in a State Senate race.

Can history repeat itself? Probably not, but don’t bet the farm it won’t.

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