Down-the-ballot: Idaho field set, GOP loses candidate in MA

Yesterday was primary day in Idaho, and the field is set for the open Senate race: Larry LaRocco easily won the Democratic nomination and Jim Risch crushed a large slate of opponents to capture the GOP nomination with 66% of the vote. Both results were expected, but given how many shocking turns the race took since the Larry Craig scandal exploded last summer, it is still noteworthy that Craig did not attempt a last minute coup to get himself on the ballot.

This sets up a rematch of the 2006 race for lieutenant governor, which Risch won 58% to 39%. LaRocco has an outside chance of scoring the upset, but Risch is heavily favored to become Idaho's new junior Senator, even with the strong winds pushing Senate Democrats nationally. The race is ranked 15th in my latest Senate rankings.

A more interesting last night came from Idaho's first congressional district. Bill Sali, first elected in 2006 in a very close general election contest after winning a crowded primary with 26% of the voted, was held under 60% of the vote in this primary, testifying to the hard feelings that still linger in the state about Sali's 2006 victory. The state GOP is notoriously hostile to Sali, who is one of the most conservative House members, so much so that even Idaho Republicans are uncomfortable with him. In fact, Democrats even ran an ad in 2006 about "what Republicans are saying about Bill Sali," quoting numerous high-profile figures like the Idaho House speaker. Sali barely prevailed at the end of the day, saved by the fact that ID-01 is one of the most conservative districts in the country.

Any incumbent who finishes with an unexpectedly low total in his primary has to be considered at least somewhat endangered in the fall, so Democrats will take a closer look at ID-01 now to determine whether they can make a play for the district. The Democratic nominee will be businessman Walt Minnick, who is mounting as strong a campaign as any Democrat can hope for in Idaho. As of May, Minnick had more cash-on-hand than Sali, testifying to the fact that his challenge should be taken seriously, though the incumbent starts heavily favored. He survived in 2006 when the seat was open and he had much of the state's Republican establishment against him, and conditions are much better for him this year.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the NRSC suffered a dramatic blow. It is one thing for Senate Republicans to have trouble fundraising and recruiting given how dismal the national environment is for the GOP, but what happened to Jim Ogonowski is plain incompetence. Ogonowski was recruited by national Republicans to run against Senator John Kerry, whose approval ratings have not been that high since his failed presidential run in 2004. Ogonowski, you might remember, lost a surprisingly tight special election in the fall for a Democratic-leaning district, and Republicans believed he had the right profile to at least force Kerry on the defensive.

This race was of course always a long shot for the GOP but given how few Democratic-held states they are contesting (well, only Louisiana really) they were at least content to be at least fielding a credible candidate in MA. But the deadline to submit petitions passed yesterday and Ogonowski fell short 82 signatures short of the number needed to qualify for the primary ballot! Even if he had that many more, he would probably not have qualified as a petition needs a cushion of signatures as a number of them are usually tossed out.

The Ogonowski campaign insists that they have filed more signatures that haven't been processed yet, but it is unlikely that they will pass the numbers they need, particularly as fellow Republican candidate Jeff Beatty, who will now probably the party's nominee against John Kerry, is taking advantage of Ogonowski's predicament to file complaints about his rival forging signatures. This will at least guarantee that Ognowski's petition will be carefully checked.

This is not a tragic blow to Republicans given that they were unlikely to truly put Kerry's seat in play (the only poll of the race had Kerry leading by 25%). But it is the accumulation of small failures -- whether in recruitment, fundraising or simply errors in the running of campaigns -- that are putting Senate Republicans in so much trouble.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home