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Idaho Democrats are alive and well. And for once feeling pretty damned optimistic. That includes former Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, who cut short an elk hunting trip to attend a rally last week for Larry Grant with Max Cleland. And he stayed out of the mountains to join Idaho Democratic luminaries, past and present (yes, there are a few of them) for what hostess Bethine Church called a pep rally. (That's Bethine, Larry Grant, and Chase Church in the background.)

Mrs. Church is, of course, widow of Senator Frank Church, and the matriarch of Idaho Democrats. So when she issues an invitation, you show up. Which is what about 100 very loyal and excited Democrats did last night, buoyed by the prospect of being competitive in this state after 12 long years in the wilderness. The slate of candidates present last night included some of the best and brightest in the state, all fighting hard to take back this state. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who has close ties to Idaho from his work in Oregon back in 1976 on Senator Church's presidential run, was the guest of honor. He repaid that honor with some very generous contributions Idaho candidates.

That included a healthy donation to Larry Grant, the candidate creating the greatest buzz in the state. The fact that this race is receiving national attention has created real excitement in the Party here. Particularly since that attention has been as positive as it is. Here's today's Washington Post:

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- It is, perhaps, the political equivalent of hell freezing over in the interior West. This red state where conservative Republicans routinely wipe the floor with hapless Democrats has a Republican running for Congress who just might lose.

The suddenly competitive race is a delicious development for Larry Grant, a Democratic candidate for the House who finds himself transformed from sacrificial lamb to reason for worry among national Republican strategists....

With an impish smile, Grant, who was a high-tech executive in Boise, took a moment from knocking on residents' doors here last week and said: "Can you imagine Republicans sitting around in Washington and saying to each other, 'Jeez, now we have to spend more money to win -- in Idaho?' "

But spending and worrying the Republicans are, here and in a handful of other usually safe House districts in the West, where unrelentingly grim news from the war in Iraq has combined with smoldering anger over federal deficits and Washington scandals to vivify Democratic candidates who not long ago were reconciled to their fate as biannual Republican roadkill....

Now, to shore up support in Idaho's vast 1st Congressional District -- 500 miles long, from Canada to Nevada, crossing two time zones and three media markets -- the Republican National Congressional Committee spent $135,000 last week for ads against Grant. His campaign says that for the final two weeks of the campaign the Republican committee has committed about $375,000 to buy television and radio time, a figure that approaches Grant's fundraising total for his entire campaign.

The GOP having to spend half a million dollars to defend a seat in Idaho? Sounds good to me. And to Larry Grant. You can ask him about it in the comments. For the next half hour or so, Larry will be here to chat.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 10:52 AM PDT.

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