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Posts published in “Stapilus”

Where safety lies

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Some weeks ago I chatted with several leading Idaho Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton for president. Asked why they preferred the former secretary of state over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the core of the answer was that Sanders would be too risky a nominee.

Meaning: He’s viewed as a left-wing extremist, and the “socialist” label would be death in, at least, Idaho. Clinton, in relative terms, was the more centrist and therefore “safer” choice. So far as I can tell, this was the prevailing view across most of the Idaho Democratic leadership.

Nationally, the odds favor Clinton winning the nomination over Sanders. But in the light of last week’s caucuses let’s revisit the subject of Sanders and Idaho. In those meetings, where turnout busted historical records, Sanders demolished Clinton, with 78 percent of the vote (and he won every county save for the smallish Lewis). And the same day in Utah, which bears some demographic similarity to southern Idaho, Sanders did even better. That’s not the general electorate, of course, only participants in the Democratic meetings. But their unusually large size (for caucuses) coupled with the overwhelming result surely carries a message.

Many of the caucus meetings were much larger than expected, and many participants waited in long lines – four to five hours in Boise – to participate. The actual process often took more hours still, vastly unlike the normal duck-in-duck-out voting in primary and general elections. (A lot of Democrats have complained about the caucus procedures, which also excluded many who wanted to vote but, for illness, employment or other reasons, could not get to the sites on time.)

Consider too: These were public votes, not secret ballots. When Idaho Republicans cast ballots in their recent primary, no one ever saw who you supported. At the Democratic caucuses, you had to publicly endorse your candidate. If you were going to support that New York-accented Democratic socialist from Vermont, as nearly four out of five Idaho Democrats did, in the face of opposition not only from the majority Republicans in the county all around you but also most of the state’s Democratic leadership as well, you were doing it as publicly as if you’d taken out a display ad in the newspaper. More: You had to look those people in the eye.

That may not be so big a deal in Latah County or Blaine County, or in Boise. But think about those Democrats in Madison County – which has been called, with justification, the most Republican county in the nation – and in Cassia, Franklin, Lemhi, or Payette. The culture in these counties, in nearly all of Idaho, is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. Local Democrats most typically keep their heads down. But in significant numbers, in support of a candidate labeled as far-left and “socialist,” they were visible last week.

One astonished Magic Valley woman commented at her caucus, “Hey, 140 people in Jerome. I am not alone.” What they did took serious fortitude. (As it would if you were a Republican caucusing for, say, Ted Cruz in an overwhelming liberal Democratic locale.)

What does this imply for politics in Idaho and beyond?

Maybe, maybe, that something is changing in Idaho. It may indicate that there are plenty of Democratic sympathizers out there, unorganized (“unchurched”?) who have little in common with most of the state’s Democratic establishment. Many Idaho Democrats for years have tried to position themselves not to lose, or at least lose badly, and shaped their message to mesh at least partly with that of the Republicans. Maybe these Democrats out there, and possibly others as well, are signaling now they would be more responsive to something else.

After the caucuses, state Democratic Chair Bert Marley, a superdelegate to the national convention with an unbound vote, said he would vote there for Sanders. That may be a first step to one of the most useful things leading Idaho Democrats could do in the months ahead: Make contact with these super-determined caucus goers, and find out whats motivating them. In many respects these people seem to be the new majority among Democrats in Idaho, and maybe elsewhere.

Anti-voter

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Sitting here in Oregon, we can reasonably think: "Well, we don't have to put up with that kind of garbage. We can vote by mail."

Yeah, we can feel superior over this one, after watching the reports yesterday of long election lines and voting chaos in the primary contests in Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

Arizona saw long lines to vote in its primary elections for both parties. Idaho saw long lines to vote in its Democratic caucuses (though there was the excuse that turnout was unusually heavy, which is a good thing). Utah had more of the same, and when it tried Internet voting ran into big snarls.

Utah, at least, was making an effort to make voting easier for voters, which ought to be object all over the place. Oregon really does make it almost as simple as it can be, allowing for essentially automatic registration - if you're eligible, you're likely registered in Oregon - and mail-in voting, which has worked smoothly for more than two decades. Total time in Oregon to cast a ballot is what it takes to mark the paper - a minute or two - and however much time you spend researching your choices.

As was widely noted on Twitter yesterday, you can order a pizza, shift funds around your bank account, and do much more these days instantly - but in too many places, voting means standing in lines.

And the caucus system is worst.

It's not just the matter of having to spend hours to get your vote registered, and sometimes (as in some places in Idaho) long waits even to get inside the caucus room. It's also the requirement that you physically be in a specific place at a specific time. Some people can't do that. They may be working then. They may be sick. One of the lead writers at the national liberal blog Daily Kos, Joan McCarter, lives in Boise, and couldn't cast her vote at the Idaho caucus because work required her to be out of town at the time. No absentee ballots for caucuses.

The caucuses still exist around the country in large part because the national parties like to have some assurance that just members of the party, and not others, are participating. But the assurances many states theoretically provide often are hollow. And the whole premise makes little sense in this country anyway, in a political system where two parties have an effective monopoly on political offices. I'll say it here: Anyone ought to be able to participate in those primary selections (one or the other - make a choice) without declaring fealty to the party. To argue otherwise is to argue that the D and R parties are just the same as any other voluntary association group, instead of being the de facto joint ruling organizations of this country.

Which takes us off in a more long-winded, and farther-reaching, direction. But shorter term: Can't we find better ways to let people cast their votes? It can be done. Oregon has.

Fill ‘er up

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There’s a logic some political people embrace through the years that goes like this: When it comes to offices you’re highly unlikely to win, you’re better off if no one from your party files as a challenger for it. That way, you’ll be putting in fewer resources on loser races, and you can focus on the better prospects.

I’ve never bought it.

For one thing, a “placeholder” candidacy really doesn’t cost a lot more than the filing fee, and usually you can avoid that by collecting petition signatures – a good organizing tool in itself. For another, it demonstrates that members of that party really are around, a psychological lever. Even placeholders usually participate in debates and are profiled in news reports, good free media for the minority party. And placeholders tend to bring their own small group of supporters into the arena.

But among the various other reasons filling those slots is a good idea, there’s pre-eminently this: You never know what might happen to the majority party or its candidates in the months ahead.

What if, for example, the Larry Craig 2007 airport scandal, which surfaced in August that year, had surfaced instead in August (or later in) 2008? Before those reports, Craig would have been nearly unbeatable for re-election; afterward, with the right set of responses to the headlines, lightning might actually have struck for the Democrat. Or maybe not, but the possibility would have been real.

Idaho Democrats in recent years have had a tougher time filling major office ballot positions, and only days before the the filing deadline did party organizers produce candidates for the top three this year: Jerry Sturgill for the Senate (incumbent: Republican Mike Crapo), James Piotrowski for the first district House seat (incumbent: Republican Raul Labrador) and Jennifer Martinez for the second district (incumbent: Republican Mike Simpson). They seem to be good candidates, though by starting so late, they’re at a big disadvantage, and that only piles on top of other disadvantages facing all Democrats in recent years. Last cycle, Democrats produced candidates for major offices much earlier, and still generally lost in landslides.

They have to know, going in, that their odds are not good.

But Democrats were right to make the recruiting effort for these congressional level seats, and for many others at the legislative and other levels. The old caution that you never know what the months ahead might bring seems especially valid this year.

At this is written, businessman Donald Trump (who came in second place in the Idaho primary) looks most likely to become the Republican nominee for president. But will he? If he does, how do the more establishment or philosophically-oriented Republicans react – do they support him or, as some openly discuss, will they bolt and support an independent candidacy, or sit the race out? If Trump is denied the nomination, how do his supporters react?

Trump has built strong support within Republican-supporting ranks, but how will he be received in the general election voting population? (Probably a good deal differently.)

How will Idaho’s elected and party officials respond to a Trump candidacy, or the fallout from a battle over it? Almost none of Idaho’s elected officials have come out in public support of Trump, which may reflect what their constituents think. What will happen to Republican unity under those conditions?

Six months from now, how will people look at the two major parties – the same way they do today, or differently?

There are no easy answers. That’s why you’re wise to cover as many of the contingencies as you can.

Those people

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Sure does make a difference when the people you're talking about are on your "team," and when they're not. Partly for this reason I've never much been a team-joiner (on more than an ad-hoc basis) and especially in politics, because the membership so often seems to impose a kind of willful blindness.

The national conservative intellectual crowd has for many a year made excuses and alliances, and general common cause, with rural low-income whites because (you always had to suspect) it got something out of it: Shared Republican votes. In this year, however, there's been a splinter, a massive shift of those rural white votes away from the Republican mainstream and over toward Donald Trump.

And the conservative intellectual crew, most noticeably at te National Review, has been responding.

The NR's Kevin Williamson has cut loose in a big way, in the most recent edition, at the complaints of the people in rust belt, Appalachian, small town and rural areas which have been abandoned by factories and others sources of economic growth, and have begun to discover that the GOP establishment hasn't really had much in the way of solutions to offer them. Williamson wrote:

"It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about “globalists” and — odious, stupid term — “the Establishment,” but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves. If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that."

And he goes on: "The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. . . . The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin."

So much for the National Review's erstwhile allies: Communities that deserve to die and - since any kind of socialized held would be anathema to a movement conservative - people who ought to just go ahead and do likewise, because they deserve no better. They're just mangy dogs who whelp children with no moral concern or conscience. Are they even human? Up for debate.

That doesn't mean there isn't some truth in what he's saying. There is. But it's not the whole truth. And to argue (as he does) that political, corporate and other external forces haven't done a massive share of damage to these places and people is simply ignorant. All those factories weren't shuttered because the workers decided not to punch in.

Williamson was maybe the most blunt of a group of conservative writers starting down this path, but he is not alone. The turn to Trump has tuurned them off - no great surprise there, since they never really had much in common other than the line on the ballot.

Writer Matthew Yglesias, reflecting on this, pointed out that "these are essays making the case that suffering white working-class communities don't deserve help of any kind. That's a correct application of the strict principles of free market ideology, but it's also a signpost of how American political discourse has changed since the end of the Cold War. If you said in 1966, or even 1986, "Well, strict application of free market principles implies the death of a huge number of traditional American communities and massive suffering among their working-class residents," then elites — including conservative elites — would say to themselves, "Well, then, these people are going to stage a communist revolution." . . . It was taken for granted that the governing class had an obligation — a practical one, if not a moral one — to actually make the system work for average people. Over the past 20 years, that idea has been increasingly abandoned on the American right. Donald Trump's popularity and these pieces in National Review are the consequences of that shift."

If that were all, the significance probably would be too small to bother with, at least beyond this year. But something has been unleashed here. People long thought to be tied down politically and philosophically are changing ground. And we may be only on the front end of that.

The split

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Here, on Tuesday night and since, is a map to ponder: The Idaho split between counties whose Republicans voted for businessman Donald Trump and those who preferred Senator Ted Cruz.

I’ve been trying to align the collection of counties for either candidate with any other kind of lineup, and nothing obvious suggests itself. This may take a little creativity.

There were a dozen Trump counties, scooped out of the center of the state: from the north, Shoshone, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho, Lemhi, Adams, Valley, Custer, Boise, Elmore, Blaine and Camas. They occupy roughly the geographic center of the state and its most lightly populated regions too; the state’s largest wilderness areas are there, but not one of the state’s 16 largest cities. (Mountain Home was the largest city in a county that went for Trump.)

But, although Cruz won all of the state’s larger cities, many of the state’s smallest, most sparsely populated and most rural counties, like Clark, Oneida, Owyhee, Lincoln, Butte and Adams, also were Cruz counties.

Analyses of counties that were more or less sparsely populated, or included more or fewer college graduates, didn’t seem to match closely with the county breakdowns.

The Trump counties included the state’s most Democratic county, Blaine, and one or two other relatively Democratic counties (Shoshone, Lewis), but Blaine Democrats are quite different from Shoshone Democrats (or those in most of the other counties). And most of these counties are as Republican as any in Idaho. Trump’s message on the economy and joblessness may have hit in some of these places, though, since counties like Adams, Clearwater and Shoshone have had especially consistent struggles with unemployment for a couple of decades.

The 32 Cruz counties occupy most of southern Idaho, including nearly all the areas touched by an interstate or near a regional center, and the north along Highway 95 and the Washington border from Lewiston to Canada. These regions, north and south, are very different kinds of areas.

The closest to uniformity was the fourth-place finish for Ohio Governor John Kasich in every county but Blaine – Idaho’s most Democratic.

The speculation that Mormons would tend to support Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to little, apart from the point that all of the counties where Rubio reached second place – like Bonneville, Bannock, Madison, Jefferson, Teton, and Oneida – were bunched in eastern Idaho, mostly in counties with a very strong LDS presence. Rubio’s stop in Idaho Falls, his one counterpart stop alongside Boise in the weekend before the election, was surely no accident. Nor were the endorsements from people either leading in (businessman Frank VanderSloot) or close to (Senator Jim Risch) the LDS community.

So why did Cruz prevail in those areas? The guess here is that last week was a bad news stretch for Rubio, and word spread that his chances of getting the nomination were crashing. That would have led to a choice between the ideological and church-oriented Cruz and the more free-form (and more secular) angry Trump. (Kasich, widely perceived – however inaccurately – as a moderate, likely wasn’t a serious factor.) In that framework, the choice for many Mormons probably would have become clear.

Looked at that way, from a social and organizational point of view, the map starts to make more sense. The areas with large conservative (but not party) organizations, and those including the larger church organizations, tend to match up well with the Cruz counties. The small town areas relatively out of the pull of regional centers tended to go for Trump.

What will be worth watching is this: Will different kind of political appeals, different kinds of politics and campaigning, start to matter in these two types of areas?

An actual pivot?

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In primary season, elections in this or that state often are called "pivotal." Far fewer really are. We won't know for sure (you never do) for a while, but in the Democratic race for president Michigan may have been an actual pivot.

There is of course the point that, had the polling been correct and Hillary Clinton won Michigan decisively (as she overwhelmingly won Mississippi the same day), Sanders would have been on the ropes. Even as matters stand, he's presently far behind - by about 200 - in the delegate count. And he won Michigan only by a modest margin.

But, well, polling was not correct, and to a degree that will go down in political lore. Harry Enten at the FiveThirtyEight site reflected, "Bernie Sanders made folks like me eat a stack of humble pie on Tuesday night. He won the Michigan primary over Hillary Clinton, 50 percent to 48 percent, when not a single poll taken over the last month had Clinton leading by less than 5 percentage points. In fact, many had her lead at 20 percentage points or higher. Sanders’s win in Michigan was one of the greatest upsets in modern political history."

That means, as people cast their ballots, they may pay a little less attention to the polling and to who's ahead. (And yes, those expectation factors really do drive votes.)

The Democratic race had been getting less attention in the last couple of weeks than the Republican, which hurts Sanders. The Michigan result provides a compelling argument for increasing attention given to the Democrats.

And, while Mississippi is a lot like many of the southern states which have been voting (strongly) for Clinton, those states are all gone now - all voted. The big votes ahead, in states like Ohio, Illinois, New York, California, will be much more like Michigan than like those southern states. Is something going on there that Sanders may be tapping into?

None of this is a prediction for a Sanders win. But the presidential abruptly looks different than it did yesterday.

Idaho’s choice

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In this season so uncomfortable for many Republicans a new question may soon arise: What’s most important, party or philosophy?

On Tuesday, and then again possibly in November, we’ll get hard numbers on that, because what’s on the ballot will give Idaho’s Republicans, and their elected leaders, a choice.

Not in many, many years has a leading Republican candidate for president run so distant from what Idaho Republicans have for generations accepted as gospel: Less government, lower taxes, support business, oppose abortion, and so on. Reflection Reaganism, if you’re a Republican, and you’re golden.

In much of Idaho, there’s been a significant related factor: The close alliance between most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who account for about a third of the vote in Idaho and a much higher percentage of Republican voters, and orthodox Republicans. (The church itself takes no formal position on presidential or other political races.)

Enter now Donald Trump, the most probable Republican nominee for president and most significant Republican breaker of the mold since before Reagan.

He is not a reciter of the GOP mantra, not even close. He doesn’t see public policy through the small-government/lower-taxes lens. The main philosophy of Donald Trump’s campaign is Donald Trump, and even that changes from week to week. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who had overwhelming support in Idaho, remarked on Thursday, “There's plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”

He also attached Trump to “the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss”.
In saying so, Romney probably did not run afoul of many of his fellow churchgoers.

On Tuesday, Christopher Cunningham, the content director of LDS.net (a website not affiliated with the church but closely supportive of it) made what may be a powerful argument for church members. (You can read it at http://lds.net/blog/buzz/lds-news/donald-trump-opinion-on-mormons/) He described a 2014 interview of Trump by McKay Coppins: “Trump insisted that Mitt Romney lost because his faith was ‘alien.’ But as Trump’s thoughts on the Church turned negative, Coppins interrupted explaining that he was Mormon. Trump then changed his tune saying, ‘People don’t understand the Mormon thing. I do. I get it.’”

Cunningham also quoted a Trump spokesman, who was defending the candidate’s proposals to investigate and possibly close mosques, as adding (approvingly), “It’s no different than a Mormon Church. You’ve had the DOJ investigate Mormon Churches and shut them down.”

In all, Cunningham said, “the uncorrected hostility between Donald Trump and Mormons is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. You may have to go back to Grover Cleveland in 1889 to find similar anti-Mormon sentiment from a presidential campaign.”

Few well-known Idaho political figures have signed on with Trump and offered a favorable counter-message. One who has is Skip Brandt, an Idaho County commissioner (and former legislator), who wrote in a letter to the editor: “The stakes could not be higher. The politically correct socialists are about to destroy our country. Donald Trump is the common-sense conservative who can change Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has the establishment (Democrats and Republicans alike) scared to death. Why? Because Trump is a private sector businessman that is used to saying ‘You’re fired.’”

So what message will Idahoans back on Tuesday? Polling has shown Trump running strong in the Gem State, well positioned to win as he has in many other deeply red states.

To the extent he does, Idaho’s political analysts will have their work cut out parsing an Idaho electorate that maybe didn’t care – all along – about many of the things its political leaders have assumed it does. And then the follow-up question: What about November?

From a podcast

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You can follow what’s going on at the Idaho Legislature in many ways besides the conventional news media and digital streaming. One of them is through the reports released by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Another, it turns out, is through podcasts – such as one released last week by state Representative Kelly Packer, a Republican from McCammon, on the subject of the IFF.

The IFF, which is run by Wayne Hoffman, has been a major presence at the Statehouse for some years. It has generated news-type reports on legislative activity, and also made clear its support or opposition to various pieces of legislation, which Hoffman is careful to say does not constitute lobbying. (Not everyone agrees with that.) Its most impactful activity, though, may be its regular scoring of legislators on a “freedom index,” which is derived from support or opposition to various pieces of legislation. The scores informally are used to describe Republicans as relatively conservative or not. Those ranking low may be attacked as RINOS (Republican in Name Only), which can be hazardous in a Republican primary.

(Ironically, all this matters far less to the Democrats, who’d face sharper questions if they scored well.)

This week, in response, legislator Packer said that. “I just had finally had enough. I wanted to push back.”

She said this on her regular podcast, available online to her constituents and others. (The web address for this one is https://soundcloud.com/kelley-packer/week-6-rep-kelley-packer-2016-idaho-legislative-report.) Packer is no RINO, as her overall comments and past work as a Republican county chair make clear. But in her latest podcast (at about th 6:20 mark), she had some sharp words for IFF.

“It’s more concerted this session than it has been in the past,” she said. Packer said she was at one time supportive of the group: “I was looking forward to having someone that would provide an honest conservative view as well.” Now, she said, “They don’t like me,” and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“There are just a lot of ironies and hypocrisies that I see in place” she said. “With a 501(c)3 those people that donate to them get a full tax deduction, but the offset to that is that they’re not supposed to be able to lobby, and yet they do. And in fact in the campaign season for 2014, I believe, they put up billboards smearing good conservatives . . . another hypocrisy is they’re very un-transparent even though they ask everyone else to be transparent.”

Her immediate concerns run inside the statehouse: “I watch people selling their votes in order to get a certain score, and that is worrisome to me. When you put on blinders and you simply follow any organization and you just do what they want you to do, then how can you really be saying you’re representing your district or the people that put you here; how can you say in good conscience you’re doing your due diligence ad understanding the issues well enough to do the right thing every time? You’re not. You’re turning your power and vote over to that organization ...”

For several years, the IFF report card has been an influential medium within the Idaho Legislature. But as Packer’s podcasts show, there’s growing potential for other new media to counter and compete with it, which may come as a relief to a number of legislators and to many of their constituents.

Overlapping campaigns

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Thursday night, Boise Democrats had two schedule-overlapping political events to choose from, both with reverberations in presidential politics.

One was the campaign kick off, at a downtown eatery, for TJ Thomson who is running for Ada County commissioner. Thomson’s political task is difficult (while Boise leans Democratic, Ada overall leans Republican), but not impossible for a well-organized candidate. And Thomson, a young and energetic candidate, will be nothing if not organized. For evidence, consider the 2008 primary (not general) campaign in Idaho for Barack Obama. It was extremely well organized – Obama won – and Thomson was one of its main leaders. A year later he was elected to the Boise City Council, where he still serves.

The other event was a campaign organizing event held at the home of former Representative Larry La Rocco, for a Democratic presidential contender of 2008 and today: Hillary Clinton. Some Democrats tried to scramble from one event to another.

I’m not suggesting here that these activities neatly split Clinton Democrats from those backing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; that didn’t seem to be the case. Based on what I heard from a bunch of Idaho Democrats this week, however, the race between the two in Idaho appears to be highly competitive. It is, in other words, a lot different from 2008 battle when one candidate, Obama, swept Idaho so decisively that Idaho became one of his best nomination wins anywhere in the country.

This time, in contrast, no one seemed entirely confident in predicting who will prevail when Idaho Democrats caucus on March 22.

Anecdotes I heard seem to suggest Idaho Democrats are splitting much like many of their counterparts elsewhere. Younger party members are said to be trending toward Sanders, their elders – and especially many people in party or elective positions – more toward Clinton. The differences didn’t appear to break much on policy or idea grounds. Sanders’ newness to the party and his Socialist tag were concerns on one side; fatigue, dynastic and trust issues linked to Clinton were problems cited on the other. Those disabilities were mentioned more than the assets the two candidates bring, which may have something to do simply with being a Democrat in blood-red Idaho.

There’s not much new in any of this for a close watcher of the national political contest, which seems to be tightening and becoming ever more competitive, and is getting ever more closely parsed. If Sanders does well in Nevada (an election still in the future as this was written), the nomination battle may become extremely close.

In a carefully-calculated chart labeled “Where Bernie Sanders needs to win,” polling analyst Nate Silver last week isolated states where Sanders and Clinton should, based on polling, demographic and other factors, do relatively well or badly. That chart suggested Sanders ought to do better than average in Idaho, winning in the Gem State by 11 percentage points if Clinton is ahead nationally by 12 points; and Sanders winning Idaho by a blowout 23 points if the two are tied nationally.

At least, that’s what a statistical analysis says. Clinton will have a large chunk of the Idaho Democratic leadership and a party base, and her campaign apparently has had staffers on the ground in Idaho, already at work organizing.

If the race is still competitive a month from now, which looks at least possible, Idaho really could become a Democratic battleground.

Travel week

I'm on the road around southern Idaho this week - visiting Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Boise, Nampa and other assorted locations. The occasion is showing (and giving away some free copies) of the book Crossing the Snake, which is a compilation of my Idaho columns.

Part of the idea too is setting down in places where newspapers are running the column, giving readers a chanc to converse. And me a chance to listen.

Reports from the road will be forthcoming. - rs