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Posts published in “Idaho”

ID 1: Lewis out

Rand Lewis

Rand Lewis

The Democratic race for Idaho's 1st House seat has simplified, with the withdrawal of Rand Lewis and his endorsement of fellow candidate Larry Grant.

Lewis had some assets as a candidate, and we didn't dismiss the possibility he might win the primary, campaigns depending. How much his endorsement of Grant, who ran in 2006 and lost to Republican Bill Sali, is less clear.

The third - now second - candidate in the race, Walt Minnick, has gotten off to a strong and energetic start, well funded and strongly organized.

Grant will draw on residual loyalty from last time, and the real campaign skills he did demonstrate. Minnick will have a good deal of party organization support and plenty of cash - more, now, than Sali. This contest will develop a sharp edge over the next few months.

Markets for winners

Maybe the Northwest political blog news today out of Rasmussen Reports will emerge from its new poll of the Oregon Senate race, in which Republican incumbent Gordon Smith takes 48% of the vote against either of the two Democrats, Jeff Merkley (who gets 30%) and Steve Novick (35%). And maybe that's worthy of note, largely as an indicator of ongoing softness in Smith support.

And, as in a good many other states, Democrat Barack Obama would be projected to defeat Republican John McCain in Oregon, but McCain would be projected to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

But we spent more time with Rasmussen's markets, a sort of futures market - guesses on who will win. A number of national political markets have sprung up in recent years, with focus on the presidential level. Rasmussen's are more numerous and detailed. In addition to markets for how each state will vote in the November presidential (the ongoing primary and caucus states too well of course), there are also markets for U.S. Senate and governor races around the country. You can read the "buy contract" numbers almost, loosely, like percentages, since they add up to around 100, not as percentages of votes, but in terms of probability of a win.

In the Oregon Senate race, for example, the bid is 75 if you want to buy a contract on the proposition that the Republican nominee will win the general election, and 24 if you think the winner will be a Democrat. You can read it as what those (anonymous) participants thought were the odds of a victory by each side.

In the Idaho Senate race, the Republican contract is bid at 87.1, and the Democratic at 13.1.

For governor of Washington, the bidding is a little closer: 62.2 for the Democrat, 20 for the Republican.

For the general election for president? In Idaho, it's Republican 90 to Democrat 2.5; Oregon Democrat 80 and no current Republican bid; Washington Democrat 80 and Republican 10.

Nothing definitive or scientific here, but something worth tracking current and often-changing lines of thought.

An Andrus blast

Been a while since we've seen Cecil Andrus, the former four-term Idaho governor, stride very deeply into highly visible partisan politics. But today, he jumped up on the national stage, letting loose a strong blast at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Andrus has never been a stong Clinton supporter, so his decision last month to announce for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was no shock. But you get the sense that he's genuinely ticked at one of the latest argument lines out of the Clinton campaign, that many of the red states (like Idaho mostly won by Obama) are somehow less important than larger blue states. From an Obama campaign email:

Today, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus called on the Clinton campaign to apologize for remarks made by Joel Ferguson, the Co-Chairman of the Clinton Campaign in Michigan for calling delegates in red states “second-class.” Ferguson said, "Superdelegates are not second-class delegates. The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic."

This is the latest in a string of attempts by the Clinton campaign to discount the votes of Democrats in the red states. In an effort to spin their losses, the Clinton campaign has repeatedly criticized Senator Obama’s wins in red states.
Governor Andrus said, “Today, a Clinton campaign surrogate took it to another level and said flat out the Democrats in Red States are second-class citizens. This is a step too far. Senator Clinton’s surrogates are telling Democrats in almost half the states in the country that they don’t matter, and that they are second class. Senator Clinton needs to immediately denounce these comments and tell her campaign surrogates to stop taking cheap pot-shots at committed Democrats across the country.”

Andrus added, “We have a senate race and a congressional race that we are going to win. I have been elected four times so don't tell me a Democrat can't win. If we tell people that their votes don’t matter, of course they aren’t going to consider voting for Democrats in the general election. This attitude doesn’t just hurt us in the Presidential campaign, but it also hurts down-ballot candidates and our efforts to build the party. We can’t have another polarizing election that starts with a candidate If you tell telling people living in smaller states that their voices don’t matter. Obama has been successful in earning support from voters of all races, genders, in red states and blue states. We need to continue those efforts and not stifle them before the election even begins.”

Northern adjudication forges on

They probably did the right thing, but even though the policy is clearly right - water rights in the Idaho Panhandle ought to be adjudicated - the execution is likely to be a problem. Usually is when you've got large-scale revolt on your hands, as seems to be happening.

As Idaho moves toward conclusion of the massive Snake River Basin Adjudication - which ought to be called one of the most successful water law actions this country has ever had - the state has started toward a legal adjudication of water in the northern part of the state, the main region untouched by the SRBA. But fears have been stirred, along with regional resentments, and in recent months county officials have pressed for reversal of the law setting up the North Idaho Adjudication, which has been scheduled to get underway . . . oh, around now. The reaction has been strong enough to get regional legislators to call for a slowdown, and the state water resources department to put on the brakes.

And that has looked like the direction of things, except that today the Senate Resources & Environment Committee has decided otherwise - to proceed with the adjudications (apart from one small basin at the far northern tip of the state).

The key lever: Water users in Washington state taking legal action to protect as much of their water rights as possible. Senator Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls: "The problem is that the Washington people are already looking at that as their aquifer. And, in fact, they got a little panicky when we started on this adjudication path and began their own adjudication path to protect themselves as they search for the same water that we have."

Hammond's point was sound, and evidently enough to convince quite a few legislators. Will it be enough to defuse a rebellion, one that could turn political this year?

Craig’s Letter of Admonition

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

The Senate Ethics Committee action on Idaho Senator Larry Craig is over, with a middling response - somewhere between quietly dropping it and taking any action that would have a practical effect.

In that middle, the panel issued a Letter of Admonition that said several of Craig's actions were improper, chastising him for them, but went no further. It concluded: "The Select Committee on Ethics resolves this matter through your public admonition so that, on behalf of the United States Senate, it may make known clearly that the conduct to which you pled guilty, together with the related and subsequent conduct discussed in this letter, is improper conduct which has reflected discreditably on the Senate."

What was it exactly that brought the discredit? First, apparently, the conviction at Minneapolis of "disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor," which the committee decided meant that Craig was in fact guilty, his protests notwithstanding. Craig's display of his Senate business card to the arresting officer, which the panel said Craig should have realized could be easily seen as an attempt to use the office to evade legal action. They said his use of campaign funds for his legal defense was ethically questionable at best.

Maybe most interesting was a distinction the Ethics panel drew about Craig's conduct of his legal case. Since Craig's conviction on the disorderly conduct charge, he has tried to persuade courts to let him withdraw his guilty plea in the case. The Ethics Committee said that is a legal tactic ordinary citizens "may take," but "it is a course that a United States Senator should not take. [emphasis theirs] Your claims to the court, through counsel, to the effect that your guilty plea resulted from improper pressure or coercion, or that you did not, as a legal matter, know what you were doing when you pled guilty, do not appear credible."

The committee essentially declared Craig thoroughly dishonest in his handling of the whole situation. It was a considerable blast. But in the context, not much more than Craig has gotten from other quarters, and nothing to shake him from his course of hanging in there till the end of this year.

The PAC is closed

Hadn't seen much reference to this, but (and a hat tip to a correspondent who suggested it) the closure of Idaho Senator Larry Craig's political action committee, Alliance for the West, seems worth a note here.

Federal Election Commission reports show the PAC as zeroed out, with no debts and no cash on hand, at the end of last year. It spent $127,909 during the year, much of it for consulting and for fundraising (the latter seeming a little odd). It contributed to four Republican senators (Pete Domenici, not running for re-election; Susan Collins; John Sununu; and Norm Coleman) and $5,000 to the Idaho Republican Party. Which, according to Roll Call, sent the money back to Craig; after which Craig, in turn, re-sent it. Who has the money now - presumably the Idaho Republicans - isn't totally clear.

Roll Call also said the PAC "received PAC contributions worth $2,500 each from Federal Express on Oct. 2, Entergy on Nov. 7 and Duke Energy on Dec. 6."

ID: Replacing Romney

Virtually the whole of Idaho's Republican Party, an overwhelming roster of its top elective and party officials, was lined up behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney - he'd have had the state in the primary bag if he'd lasted till May. As it is, the field has narrowed to Arizona Senator John McCain with an an overwhelming (probably uncatchable) lead, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Representative Ron Paul still out there. So what's an Idaho Republican to do?

Bst guess here is that they follow the lead of Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch - a loyal Romney man till now - and switch over to McCain, he being the presumptive nominee.

But we do couch that as a best guess. McCain isn't quite an Idaho kinda Republican - at least not as Idaho Republicans can be reasonably described in this decade. (A decade two or three ago may be another story.) Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman has collected some of the many anti-McCain blasts from around the area. One such is from social conservative Bryan Fischer, who based his around the re-nicked "Good-bye Old Party."

Will be curious to see if some block of Idaho Republicans (the Steven Thayn crowd, for example) throw in with Huckabee, or maybe if Ron Paul actually picks up a little more steam. Overall, though, the ever-pragmatic Risch probably is a good indicator most of the establishment will, albeit unenthustically, migrate to McCain.

The size and the disposition

Some followup on initial thoughts about the Idaho caucuses, mainly expanding on the two obvious points: The Obama unanimity, and the sheer size of the turnout. (Full numbers are at the state Democratic web site.)

bullet The sweep for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was overwhelming. He took 43 of Idaho's 44 counties, and the one lost - Lewis, in the north-central - is one of the smallest. (No obvious answers to that outlier, other than that Lewis is unusual in that it is small, remote, rural and still has a substantial local Democratic core, which may retain some loyalty to the Clinton Administration.)

Among larger counties, the Obama percentages were remarkably consistent, many in the 70-85% range - Ada 84.5% (district 1 at 84%, and 2 at 87%), Canyon 76%, Kootenai 81%, Latah 80%, Nez Perce 71%, Bonneville 78%, Twin Falls 74%. Bannock would have to be considered on the low end, with just 68% in the Obama column.

Apart from Lewis, the best Hillary Clinton numbers came in some of the mid-population or smaller farm counties which have strong Hispanic populations - Lincoln (43%), Jerome (42%), Bear Lake (42%), Franklin (37%), Minidoka (36%), Washington (36%), Camas (36%). And Shoshone County (43% Clinton), which like Lewis has a still-in-place local Democratic establishment.

bullet Stats from 2004 and earlier aren't readily available - we'll try and find some - but it certainly seems as if the more than 21,000 participants in the Tuesday Idaho caucuses blew well past anything the state had seen from Democrats before.

The reasons are less clear. Some of it may have been support for Obama. Some of it may have been a party switch, or increased involvement on the part of independents. Whichever, this will call for some ongoing inquiry.

We fielded a question from D.C. this morning to the effect: Does the high turnout in Idaho caucuses portend a voter shift in November? Our thought is that point shouldn't be pushed too far - while more than 20,000 participants packed the caucuses, the voting population in November may top 650,000, so this still is only a small percentage of that.

But it doesn't feel irrelevant, either.

Early in Idaho

If you're looking for stats from the Idaho Democratic presidential caucuses, the place to go is the state party's results page, nearly done and well broken-out. For liveblogging from the scene, check out the Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert's blog and expect more at Red State Rebels as well.

But the core point is that the predictions (here among other places) that Obamamania would sweep Idaho have proven out; Barack Obama will take nearly all of Idaho's national convention delegates, with the outside possibility that he gets them all. Early reports are of electricity in the Obama caucuses. Obama is stomping all comers in Idaho, and that's no surprise.

We'll be reviewing that results chart again soon, but for the moment an early indicator we were really struck by: A turnout of 212 Democrats to the caucus in Madison County (of which Obama won 82%). Madison County is Rexburg, folks, it's where contested Republicans oftentimes win 90% of the vote - one of the very reddest counties in one of the very reddest states. 212 people is not a whole lot fewer than Ada County (Boise) Democratic events attracted not so many years ago. And there were 115 in Lemhi County . . . for those of us who've watched Idaho politics over the years, that's breathtaking. And in little Teton County, total population about 7,500, a tightly competitive valley area, Democrats drew 275 caucusgoers - a real sizable chunk of the voting population, a genuinely stunning number.

Those stories from other states about Democrats blowing through old ceilings appear to be matched in Idaho.