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Posts published in “Idaho”

The decline of television (political advertising)?

Could it be that technology may be bringing toward a close one of the central problems in American politics that earlier technology helped create?

The large problem is money - the massive amounts of money raised and spent in political campaigns, and which this year have broken all sorts of new records in the Northwest as elsewhere - most expensive governor's race in Idaho, most expensive Senate race (almost certainly) in Washington, most expensive House race ever in Idaho . . . on and on. Where money is a problem in politics, we clearly still are in the belly of the monster.

How is all that money spent - or, put another way, what do they need it for? The big component is broadcast, mostly television, advertising. For a generation, the political theory is that a candidate who can heavily outspend an opponent - which translates to, air many more TV spots than the opponent - will often win. (Of course, you have to factor in that many well-funded candidates get well funded because they are considered strong prospects to win.) Campaigns use money for other things too, but if you struck TV advertising off the budget, the size of many of those warchests would shrivel.

So: What if it turns out that TFV ads are simply becoming ineffective as opinion drivers, are no longer helping candidates win elections?

We'll get a more definitive read on that next Tuesday night. But if, for purposes of this discussion, we can assume that recent polls are reasonably predictive, then we may be seeing the early stages of decline in political TV advertising - which could turn out to be one of the best developments for years in the conduct of politics in this country. (more…)

A state on the bubble

Asecond Idaho poll - this one by Greg Smith, for KTVB-TV and the Idaho Business Review, shows almost exactly what last week's Mason Dixon did. About the only thing different was the degree of the most important factor: The undecided.

A surface reading in the governor's race shows Democrat Jerry Brady leading Republican Butch Otter, 41% to 36%; and in the 1st congressional district, it shows Democrat Larry Grant leading Republican Bill Sali, 38% to 34%. The closeness is absolutely startling; these figures, reflecting last week's poll (and following up in some ways from Smith's last poll in August) are unusual, different for Idaho than any polling result in the last dozen years.

And yet you'd be mistaken to shorthand these results as suggesting a probable razor-close finish. What's more likely is that one side or the other will win decisively. We just don't know which.

During those dozen years, since Idaho politics has been frozen in place - almost everything went to conservative Republicans, usually by big margins. Our observation during that time has been that matters would eventually change; politics does not remain static forever. When that change would come, has always been less clear.

Is this the year - in this year of failed local Republican candidacies against a backdrop of larger national Republican failures - the year of the Big Melt?

There's no perfect answer, because that depends on a good many Idaho people who haven't yet decided what to do about these races. In the governor's race, 20% of the voters call themselves undecided between Otter and Brady, and in the congressional, 25% between Sali and Grant. Those are unusually big undecided numbers for so late - this poll was conducted this week - in a campaign.

What they will do, we don't know. But the similar opinion patterns suggest that many of the same factors are causing that indecision; and we know that historically, late undecideds tend to break strongly one way or another, often because of some factor emerging in the last few days before an election.

Add the bulk of the 20% to either Otter's or Brady's numbers, for example, and you wind up with a big win - which, right now, seems more likely than a super-close result.

The catch is that there's almost no way to know - now - which way they will go. (more…)

One-car smashup

One of the core principles of Republican strategist Karl Rove is supposed to be: Hit 'em not where they're weakest, but where they're strongest. Undermine their core strength, amd they're in trouble.

In the Idaho 1st district race, Republican Bill Sali keeps doing it to himself.

Sali's core strength is supposed to be that he is an absolutist, rigorously pure of ideology - a black/white guy, no shades of gray at all.

Now comes a ballot issue on which Idaho voters will have to decide next week - an important one, on land use policy, Proposition 2 - and polls make clear that most Idahoans have figured out what they think. (Last weekend's Idaho Statesman/KIVI-TV poll shows the margin between favor/disfavor as close.) Elected officials and candidates have let loose their thoughts, as have just about all of the candidates for office.

Bill Sali apparently can't decide.

He told the Statesman that "it's one of the most complicated things I've read in my life." Too complicated for him but not for hundreds of thousands of Idaho voters and every other candidate on the ballot? (His opponent, Democrat Larry Grant, is in opposition.)

That lack of a position appears to obtain even though, as Prop 2 manager Laird Maxwell correctly notes, Sali has not protested Maxwell's listing of him as a Prop 2 backer on the initiative's web site.

Could the fact that some of Sali's key out of state backers support the measure have anything to do with his indecision?

We noted this pecuiarity several weeks ago, assuming it would be clarified before now. With a week left before the election, looks as if Sali may remain the fuzzy candidate clear to the end. (If that should change, we'll post to that effect.)

Endorsement Sunday: on Sali

Of the 1st district Idaho daily newspapers which endorse, we correctly estimated that Democrat Larry Grant either might sweep the endorsements over Republican Bill Sali, or all but one. (One more is yet to come in this race.)

The paper we were thinking might go for Sali was the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune, considering its usually very conservative editorial stands.

Not this time. Their editorial today is the thoroughgoing and powerful - and skillful - editorial blast against Sali we've seen all year. "Skillful" is added in because it did what is tough to do: It explains clearly why, though the candidate may be acceptable philosophically, he is unsuited for the job he seeks. It does so in fair and reasoned terms. Emanating from a solidly conservative editorial board, it has some chance of being taken more than usually seriously by conservative voters.

UPDATE: Corrected for prematurity; we had understood an endorsement had been made, which hadn't.


Today's Idaho poll offered up by Mason Dixon - broadly regarded as one of the better polling firms in the country - courtesy the Boise Idaho Statesman and KIVI-TV in Nampa, shows a general election campaign riding on the razor edge.

The core numbers are these:

Office Republican % Democratic % Undecided %
1st US House Bill Sali 39% Larry Grant 37% 21%
Governor Butch Otter 44% Jerry Brady 43% 12%
Lt Gov Jim Risch 45% Larry La Rocco 36% 18%
Supt Pub Instr Tom Luna 40% Jana Jones 37% 23%

That these numbers are as close as they are in Idaho is noteworthy on its face, and an indicator that recent polls showing a closing of the races are not outliers.

Looks like a serious horse race. But more specifically, what do we make of it? (more…)

Perspective on ‘red to blue’

Democrats in eastern Washington and western Idaho were cheered this week when their candidates, Peter Goldmark and Larry Grant, in the 5th and 1st respectively, were upgraded to the national Democratic "red to blue" list - the party's list of hot and truly competitive races. Which both, in fact, seem to be.

A moment, please, for what this says in larger-picture perspective, as we look toward the election 10 days off. (more…)

A proposal for restoration

The winding down of this year's campaign means time is coming not only to vote but also to consider how this process can be improved next time. Do we really want a 2008 campaign season that becomes simply a bigger and badder version of this one? Thought not (for most of us, that is).

Here's one such suggestion (we will have more soon).

Consider the Thursday ruling by the Supreme Court in Montana (Montanans for Justice v. State) throwing out (more precisely, declaring void) three ballot issues which actually will appear on the state's ballot. These issues were backed by some of the same outfits which sent their tentacles into Washington, Oregon and Idaho this season. Here's a piece of what the court said happened: (more…)

Not just where, but why, the money

Do the national Republicans appreciate the extent to which this is beginning to make Republican Bill Sali look ever more like a seriously at-risk candidate in a heavily Republican district?

Word up today that yet another massive buy on Sali's behalf from a national Republican committee - at a time when national Republican money has been pulled from some states - and that Vice President Dick Cheney will pay yet another another visit to the 1st district, once again to help Sali. There seems to be no bottom to the generosity of the national Republicans and allied groups (hello, Club for Growth) on this race - by election day, their independent expenditures on Sali's behalf will approach the total campaign expenditures of Sali and Democrat Larry Grant taken together. What the national Republicans will spend in the last month of this campaign, in fact, probably will exceed Grant's total spending (which has not been shabby for a Democrat) all year. That's in addition to the Club's central underwriting ever since last fall of much of Sali's campaign treasury.

Gee, you'd think these guys didn't have confidence in Sali to do his own thing. Which raises the question: To what extent is Sali doing his own thing?

It suggests two more questions too. (more…)

The Final Push

We now have it definitively from the National Republican Congressional Committee: The top three U.S. House races in the Northwest - Washington 5 and 8 and Idaho 1 - are among the 33 top races in the country. All three, we know courtesy of The Hill newspaper, have placed on the NRCC's "Final Push List."

That list is about focusing financial help to specific campaigns. PAC Director Jenny Sheffield was quoted: “…it’s crucial at this point to send in some late money to some [of] our campaigns. The funds our candidates receive now will allow them to increase their TV buys and will make the difference on Nov. 7. I have attached our Final Push list for those Members and candidates most in need of support right now. If your boss has not maxed out to those on the attached list, please ask him or her to consider sending a check from a leadership PAC and/or reelection account … IMMEDIATELY!”

You sense a tone of urgency. Considering how securely Republican the three Northwest districts have been in recent elections, this is a remarkable admission (and backs up Cathy McMorris' comments last week that the Washington 5th is in play).