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by 43rd State Blues Blogger Sisyphus

I've been a huge fan of Idaho native Joan McCarter (McJoan), front pager for Daily Kos, ever since I first became  acquainted with her from blurking the blogs. And I acted like a star  struck teenager when she brought Kos to Idaho for a Democratic banquet.   But her write up on the (Raul) Labrador upset is wide of the mark.

Unfortunately for the incumbent, Dem Walt Minnick,  because his best chance of holding on to his seat was the mistake-prone  Ward, who was unlikely to generate the kind of enthusiasm Labrador can  garner. The best a Dem can hope for in this state is low Republican  turnout.

On the contrary, Labrador is (Bill) Sali's heir apparent. Minnick won this  seat in a district that gave McCain 61% of the vote. Minnick's  opponent, Bill Sali, was a Republican flame thrower who became a  congressman in a similarly divided primary after being funded by a right  wing PAC, Club for Growth.  Sali was the informal head of the  ideological wing of the Idaho Republican party which constantly clamors  for purity purges to cleanse it of notions they see as an anathema to  conservatism.

In 2007, Sali helped lead a fight to defeat the Executive Director of  the party, Kirk Sullivan, a big business lobbyist and a moderate. The moderates are largely composed of business types more concerned about  government regulation than abortion. While smaller in number, they have  most the money. A legislator that helped Sali in that fight was none  other than Raul Labrador.

As a result of that schism, Sali ended up lonely and alone when  running for re-election in 2008.  His sugar daddy, Club for Growth, had  other fish to fry.  Big business Republicans like Dirk Kempthorne, Phil  Batt and Governor Butch Otter were noticeably absent from Sali's  campaign trail.  And the big money, usually relied on by Republicans to  fund their campaigns, actually started showing up on Minnick's campaign  finance disclosure forms, probably as a result of Sali's xenophobic immigration legislation he was threatening.  With the help of this  money, Minnick was able to cobble together a sufficient coalition of  disaffected moderate Republicans and eager enthused Democrats to squeak out a victory in a heavily Republican district.

The Republican primary yesterday was merely a continuation, if not a  deepening, of the Republican rift.  Fourteen months prior to the primary, Vaughn Ward was plucked from DC by Dirk Kempthorne, anointed by the Republican establishment such as Phil Batt, and funded by Idaho big  business Republicans like Micron.  Ward had secured the support of the  NRCC who provided labor and promotion labeling him one of their "Young  Guns" to take over DC from the likes of Nancy Pelosi.  In stark contrast, Labrador came to the race late, had sorely anemic fund raising, and  secured the endorsement of ... Bill Sali, as well as most his colleagues  in the Idaho House of Representatives known for its extremism and for  bucking the Governor and his moderate cronies in the Senate.

This is not to say that Minnick has the general locked up by any  stretch.  Minnick is still clearly the  underdog in a district that gave Bush 68% in 2004.  And while  Minnick has alienated his Democratic base by casting high  profile votes against the administration, he has incumbency and a  significant war chest to his advantage.  Had (Vaughn) Ward won this race, Walt faced a very real prospect of a unified Republican party behind a well funded candidate in an off year election in which the sour economy will reflect badly on incumbents.  And while Labrador isn't burdened with Sali's caustic personality, he nevertheless represents the same extremist ideology that alienates big business and divides Republicans.

McJoan puts emphasis on Labrador's untested ability to garner  enthusiasm.  Labrador did not win the primary. Ward lost it. Labrador waged no apparent campaign in the traditional sense, lacking money, and  he was ranging around for staff just one month ago.  Tea bagger  enthusiasm waned considerably after the passage of HCR even in freakin'  Idaho as could be seen by the poor  turnout for Caribou Barbie. And while Labrador definitely has tea  bag supporters, Tea Party Boise endorsed him without polling its group  and only after Ward tripped all over himself.  Immigration still seems  to be the lynch pin here and the big question mark is whether the  xenophobes are going to be able to support a guy named Raul who makes  his living legalizing Mexicans. Tea bagger support will also be  mitigated by the fact that Minnick himself was endorsed by the national  Tea Party organization thereby discouraging voters from labeling Minnick  as "establishment".

In the end, I think there's no doubt that Minnick is happy the way  the primary turned out. He just might have a shot at a second term.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Read Sisyphus's blog

Originally posted to 123idaho on Thu May 27, 2010 at 04:49 AM PDT.


Raul Labrador's Victory

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