Let's start with the why. First, GOP complacency. That resulted in letting the Club For Growth come in and get probably the worst Congressional candidate running this cycle on the ballot. The party that got so used to winning wasn't able to withstand the attack from the far right flank. And, in the gubenatorial race, that complacency has led to an almost non-campaign by the Republican, retiring Congressman Butch Otter. His sense that the governor's chair was his has allowed Jerry Brady in the race.
The GOP missteps helped, but any gains made this cycle, particularly a victory by Larry Grant in Idaho's first congressional district, will be thanks to Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. Idaho State Party Chair (and former Congressman) Richard Stallings says as much:
Stallings described his frustration with getting Democratic leaders to pay attention to the open Idaho House race this year, given the conventional wisdom that no state that voted 68 percent for President Bush in 2004 would be fertile ground for a competitive contest.
Stallings recalled that after state Rep. Bill Sali (R), who is not well-liked by the state Republican establishment, won the GOP primary he tried to convince national Democratic leaders that the race was winnable.
"They just sort of pooh-poohed me," he said.
But Stallings did praise Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who has been at odds with his party's House and Senate campaign chiefs over spending priorities all cycle.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Howard Dean and the 50-state strategy," Stallings said. "I think he recognized that if the party's going to be competitive nationally they've got to either reach to the South or the West and I don't see that happening in the South. The West is really the potential for growth."
While the NRCC and Club for Growth have continued to pour money into the Sali campaign--now approaching $750K--
to date as of 9/30 Grant has received $1,573 from Party Committees. To date, no independent expenditures have gone to the Grant campaign. What the campaign has received, however, is a state party organization that stretches through the district. When Howard Dean took over at the DNC, the Idaho Dems had one and a half staff people. The party was disorganized, demoralized, and stretched to the limit. The party now has five permanent staff and has been able to hire field coordinators.
The Grant campaign probably would have appreciated a little more help, they certainly didn't count on it, and still aren't counting on it. But Grant is an impressive enough candidate, and knows the district well enough, that he's done fine on his own. The good news with that is that there aren't any strings being pulled by outside forces, some of which are happy to offer lots of advice now that Grant's campaign is in the national spotlight. Grant has the freedom to continue his thus far successful strategy in the campaign. That strategy included "buying Idaho."
More about that, and some further reflections on Idaho after the flip.
This is probably the most marked difference between this campaign and the 1994 campaign that started the critical demise of the Democratic Party in Idaho. That was the election in which Democrats lost the 1st district and all but one statewide offices, and Democrats kept just 13 out of 70 seats in the state legislature. And this was a campaign that involved the DCCC, the DNC, and a number of out of state consultants who convinced us that we could do the job more cheaply and efficiently by using out of state call centers for GOTV calls. You can see how well that worked out.
The 1994 wave would have hit Idaho hard, anyway, but a more localized campaign likely would have salvaged some legislative seats, and certainly would have helped keep the network of stalwart volunteers and party workers engaged for the next election. Instead, Idaho Democrats have remained in the wilderness for 12 long years. But this election is changing that. Win or lose in 2006, a state-wide party structure is back in place, making Idaho Democrats more competitive for the critical Senate election in 2008 and beyond.
Now on to the photos. This one is my favorite. This is Kossack Old Timer (also known as my father) with his old friend Governor Cecil Andrus (right).
Larry Grant speaks with Controller candidate Jackie Groves-Twilegar and Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
Larry Grant with Bethine and Chase Church.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez firing up the crowd.
Larry and Ms. Sanchez.
Governor Schweitzer and Jerry Brady with the Boise skyline.
Larry and a soon-to-be constituent.