If the media’s interest in a candidate’s news conference is any measure, then Paulette Jordan’s chance of defeating Republican Sen. Jim Risch is somewhere between slim and none.
Last week, she held a news conference as the kickoff to her Boise campaign tour, but the big guns in the media world were nowhere to be found. Who can blame them? It’s difficult to pay much attention to a candidate who “launches” anything in Idaho’s largest city within six weeks of an election. And Boise is one of the new pockets in the Gem State that is friendly toward Democrats.
The low energy we see in Idaho campaigns is a stark contrast from battleground states such as Arizona or North Carolina, where control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance and millions of dollars are spent in the process. Voters in those swing states, no doubt, have had their fill of campaign ads.
At least, there’s some election-year excitement happening in other states; Idaho has all the suspense of Russian elections. If history is our guide, then President Trump will carry Idaho by a wide margin – as every Republican candidate has for more than a half a century. Risch will get six more years in office, as have all other Republican Senate candidates over the last 40 years, and the two House seats will remain in Republican hands. In Russia, there’s no mystery. Putin wins!
But credit should go to those who defy the odds, put themselves out there and have the guts to run. These candidates are giving voters a choice, which distinguishes Idaho elections from Russia. Props to Rudy Soto, who is on a statewide tour in his challenge to Rep. Russ Fulcher in the First District, and Aaron Swisher who has an even more daunting challenge against Rep. Mike Simpson in the Second District.
As for Jordan, who ran for governor two years ago, she’s making her second run in a statewide election. The coronavirus has limited her personal appearances, but she has been holding virtual town halls while campaigning aggressively on email and social media platforms. She’d prefer the personal meetings over the virtual ones, but her supporters know who she is and what she represents.
At the moment, she’s going after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans who apparently can’t wait to appoint a conservative jurist to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the Supreme Court’s liberal icon. A vote on Trump’s nominee could be wrapped up before, or shortly after, the election, and Trump’s nominee might get through even if loses the election. If Idaho’s senators go along with that plan, they’d have wide support from their Republican constituents. But not from Jordan.
“This is exactly why I am running for the U.S. Senate – the age of politicians who put party over people must end,” she said in an email fund-raising letter. “Justice Ginsburg was a forceful advocate of woman’s rights and made equality her life’s long mission. She was a role model for each of us, and carried herself with a profound sense of dignity and justice.”
Risch passed along his condolences for Justice Ginsburg’s passing, while making it clear that he politically disagreed with her on most issues. Conservatives in Idaho may view the timing of her death as an opportunity to replace a liberal judge.
Again, Jordan is offering a choice and making a case for Democratic control of the Senate. But can she win? Risch has dismissed this race as a mere formality – a conservative senator seeking re-election against a liberal Democrat, with an eye toward advancing a socialist agenda.
Jordan says, not so fast.
“This is not over by a long shot,” she says. “(Internal) polls show him severely behind President Trump. His numbers are so far below President Trump’s that he is greatly at risk. So, his overconfidence is greatly misguided … and shows how disconnected he is with the people of Idaho. It is going to be a very rude awakening.”
Or, maybe everything will turn out the way it almost always does in Idaho and we can go back into hibernation after the election.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org