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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Idaho

ID: Risch +12

In 2006, scandal-plagued Republicans like Mark Foley, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney cost their party seats even when they weren't on the ballot. Idaho Senator Larry Craig's arrest in the Minneapolis airport, though, doesn't look like it will have a negative effect on the GOP's chance to hold his now-open seat, a new poll from the Gem State shows.

The poll, conducted by Greg Smith & Associates, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/18-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Smith has worked for Republican candidates in the state, though this poll was not conducted for any candidate. Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, the Republican nominee, was tested against Democratic ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco and independent candidate Rex Rammell.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Risch............41 / 27 / 52 / 37
LaRocco.......29 / 51 / 18 / 31
Rammell..........3 / 4 / 2 / 1

Neither candidate has solidified their political base, though if Risch is able to pull Republicans together he would easily win the race in such a GOP-heavy state. Risch leads in every region of the state except for the North Central area, also the least populated region in Idaho.

It's no surprise that Risch is leading by a wide margin. The race is actually a rematch of the 2006 contest for Lieutenant Governor, in which Risch beat LaRocco by a wide 58%-39% margin. This year, Democrats look better off targeting First District Rep. Bill Sali, a vulnerable incumbent, than the open Senate seat.

ID: Risch +10

If Democrats have a shot at taking over Idaho Senator Larry Craig's seat, Republicans should just go home right now. A new poll conducted for DailyKos shows the Republican in the Gem State well ahead, but thanks to a third-party candidate, it's not unthinkable that the state could send its first Democratic Senator to Congress since Frank Church.

The survey, conducted by independent pollster Research 2000, was conducted 7/28-30 among 500 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. The sample included 48% Republicans, 23% Democrats and 29% independents. Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, the Republican, was tested against ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco, a Democrat, and independent Rex Rammell, a rancher.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Risch..........42 / 5 / 64 / 35 / 45 / 39
LaRocco.....32 / 81 / 5 / 38 / 28 / 36
Rammell........5 / 2 / 7 / 4 / 6 / 4

McCain........53 / 9 / 79 / 44 / 56 / 50
Obama.........37 / 85 / 7 / 48 / 35 / 39

Both major party candidates are popular with state voters. Risch is seen favorably by 45% of Gem Staters, while just 26% view him unfavorably, and LaRocco has a similarly positive 43%-21% favorable to unfavorable rating. Rammell, a conservative property-rights advocate, will take more votes from Risch than from LaRocco, but if Democrats are to have a real chance, he'll need to do better than the 5% he gets here.

A Risch Proposition

The race for Larry Craig's old Senate seat will likely be a rematch between two candidates who faced off in 2006 for Lieutenant Governor. A new poll from the Spud State shows the result could be the same as the last time, when incumbent Republican Jim Risch defeated former Rep. Larry LaRocco.

The survey, taken for LaRocco's campaign by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic research firm, polled 500 likely voters between 5/20-25 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Risch, LaRocco and rancher Rex Rammell, running as an independent, were tested.

General Election Matchup

Risch won gratitude from fellow Republicans when, after being elevated to governor following Dirk Kempthorne's appointment to U.S. Interior Secretary, he declined to enter the gubernatorial primary in favor of then-Rep. Butch Otter. In return, the state GOP virtually handed Risch the nomination to replace Craig in the Senate.

Still, Risch's approval ratings probably aren't as high as he would like. 49% approve of his job as lieutenant governor, but just 42% said he did an excellent or good job as interim governor. 38% said his performance was fair or poor. And just 44% of the state views him favorably, while 23% view him unfavorably.

LaRocco isn't in much better position. The two-term Congressman served from 1991 to 1995, before being ousted in the Republican landslide in 1994. Fourteen years later, just 29% of Idahoans see the Democrat favorably, while 20% view him unfavorably. In a state in which President Bush won 68% of the vote in 2004, LaRocco will be a serious underdog all year. Perhaps, he hopes, Craig becomes Risch's most visible surrogate.

Craig Accepting Interns

Embattled Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who was admonished a few weeks ago by the Senate Ethics Committee for his role in a certain incident in an airport bathroom last summer, is accepting summer interns, his office announced today. The deadline, for Idaho college juniors and seniors, is March 15.

How many college kids will be walking into any of Craig's six offices, in Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston, Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello or Idaho Falls?

Not many, we're guessing.

So It's Come To This

Not to kick him while he's down, but outgoing Senator Larry Craig is having a rough time getting his name out there. Normally, a senator's op-ed would run in one of his or her state's major papers and get prominent billing on the issues of the day.

Craig is not in that position. The best he could do: The Magic Valley Times-News, wherein he argues that he remains an effective senator, having secured large earmarks for several projects around the state. The paper had argued, after Craig's incident in a Minneapolis bathroom and subsequent guilty plea, that Craig was no longer able to do his job representing Idaho.

"Readers can rest assured that I haven't lost the old ways. Fighting for Idaho's water is something I have done since my first days in Congress and beyond. My spurs aren't on the hook just yet, and until they are, I'll keep fighting for Idaho," Craig concludes. It's a safe bet that a similar op-ed will not be appearing in the Idaho Statesman, the paper that spent months on a long investigative piece detailing Craig's extracurricular activities.

In other Idaho news, Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, the favorite to succeed Craig in the Senate, announced last week that he raised $165,000 in the fourth quarter, leaving him with $172,000 cash on hand. Polls have shown Risch with big leads over his primary rivals and former Rep. Larry LaRocco, the likely Democratic nominee.

No Craig Albatross In ID

A new poll out of the Gem State shows that, despite the travails of outgoing Sen. Larry Craig, Republicans have a strong chance to retain the state's open Senate seat next year. The poll, conducted by Myers Research and Strategic Services, tested Lieutenant Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican, against former Rep. Larry LaRocco.

The poll was conducted for Democratic State House Leader Nicole LeFavour last month, between 11/13-19, as she pondered a bid herself, and surveyed 600 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

General Election Matchup
Risch 48
LaRocco 34

Generic Senate Matchup
Democrat 42
Republican 36

A generic Democrat leading a generic Republican in a Senate race? Seems impossible, doesn't it, especially as Risch leads LaRocco by a wide margin? Not necessarily. The GOP brand is wounded, even in Idaho: President Bush earns just a 33% excellent/good job approval rating, lower even than Craig's 37% mark.

So how is Risch ahead? The simple answer is that he is one of the state's most popular public officials. When Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was elevated to become Bush's Interior Secretary, Risch served temporarily as his replacement, though he decided to avoid a GOP primary and ceded the nomination to Gov. Butch Otter, choosing instead to run for re-election.

Risch is the overwhelming favorite to retain the seat for Republicans, thanks to the good will he built during his temporary stint as governor. LaRocco is probably the best-known Democrat the party could have found to run for the seat, though if history is any indication, he has to find a new way to run a race: He lost to Risch in the race for Lieutenant Governor in 2006 by a wide 58%-39% margin.

Risch Holds Early Lead

A poll out over the weekend from prominent Idaho pollster Greg Smith shows Lieutenant Gov. Jim Risch, who kicked off his campaign last week, in good position to win the Republican nomination to replace Sen. Larry Craig. The poll, conducted 10/8-9 for KIVI-TV, surveyed 300 Idaho adults, for a margin of error of +/- 5.6%. Risch, Congressman Mike Simpson and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden were tested.

Primary Election Matchup
Risch 30
SImpson 13
Wasden 5
Undecided 45

Idahoans, though, would like to get the job done sooner rather than later. 51% of those surveyed said they opposed a decision by Craig, in trouble for allegedly making advances in a men's restroom, to stay in the Senate, while 21% want him to stay in office.

With the early lead, Risch can raise the money to scare Wasden out of the race. Simpson has vehement opposition from the Club for Growth, which has accused him of raising taxes, while Wasden continues to publicly mull a bid. The winner of the primary will likely face former Rep. Larry LaRocco, a Democrat who lost a bid for Lieutenant Governor against Risch last year.

Morning Thoughts: Turn Left At Albuquerque

Happy Tuesday morning. Cleveland, apparently, rocks. Sorry, Yankee fans. Here's what's kicking around Washington today:

-- The Senate is out of session this week for Columbus Day recess, while the House begins an easy week tonight. No votes until 6:30 p.m., when the House will take up bills on product safety, war profiteering and college tuition for residents of the District of Columbia. The House Foreign Affairs Committee takes up a resolution declaring genocide in an early 20th Century incident in the then-Ottoman Empire, when thousands of Armenians were slaughtered. When France threatened a similar resolution, Turkey cut off some military ties, and some have suggested that, should the resolution pass, several air bases the U.S. uses to stage operations for Iraq could be threatened.

-- The biggest news driving the day: Anticipation over former Sen. Fred Thompson's impending debate performance in a gathering, sponsored by CNBC, tonight in Dearborn, Michigan. The storyline going into the debate is that Thompson must have a stellar performance tonight. The debate is "crucial," per the NYT and WaPo and a "big test," says Thompson's hometown Tennessean. Thompson has been practicing for weeks, with at least seven sessions at his McLean, Virginia, headquarters, writes AP's Liz Sidoti. Roger Simon's round-up of expectations the Thompson camp is setting: "All he has to do is not fall asleep. All he has to do is not throw up. All he has to do is not drool."

-- One side note that will be telling: Sidoti reports that Thompson will find himself standing between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani tonight. The two campaigns have gone after each other with increasing urgency of late, most recently on taxes and spending, with both launching shots suggesting the other is nothing less than a tax-and-spend liberal. If the two take more shots at each other than at Thompson -- and given that the debate will focus on economic issues, taxes and spending will be a major topic -- will that signal that neither takes the threat of Thompson very seriously?

-- In a blow to former Sen. John Edwards' campaign, SEIU yesterday voted not to endorse a presidential candidate, freeing their local chapters to do the job for them. While most top officials are friendly to Edwards, locals in New York and Illinois backed their favorite daughter and son enough to block the North Carolinian from grabbing the nod. "Given the importance of this election, we are encouraging members and leaders to act on their passion for the candidates, and get involved on a statewide basis," SEIU President Andy Stern said. Edwards' campaign sees reason to be publicly optimistic, saying they could now win endorsements from locals in key states, writes Perry Bacon.

-- Unions have split on supporting candidates in the primary this year, writes the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva. The AFL-CIO has promised to spend more than $50 million in 2008, though they haven't picked a Democratic standard-bearer. Hillary Clinton owns the support of six big unions, including the Machinists and National Federation of Teachers, while Edwards has support from four big labor groups, including the Steelworkers, Mine Workers and Carpenters. Barack Obama has the backing of one union, the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

-- Rep. Heather Wilson (R), who yesterday reported a whopping $750,000 cash on hand, gets a major opponent today when Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez (D) will enter the race to succeed Sen. Pete Domenici in New Mexico, reports The Hill. Chavez, who lost a bid for governor in 1998, gives Democrats at least one top-tier candidate, though the party still pines for a bid from either Gov. Bill Richardson or Rep. Tom Udall, both of whom have said no.

-- Former Rep. Larry LaRocco (D-ID), running to replace outgoing Sen. Larry Craig, goes from being a big front-runner (because no one else was running) to being a big underdog when Lieutenant Gov. Jim Risch (R) is expected to announce his candidacy in several news conferences around Idaho today. Risch will fly around from Boise to Idaho Falls and Coeur d'Alene, according to the Idaho Mountain Express. The move comes a day after news leaked that Craig will be inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame this coming Saturday.

-- Off-Message Hoax Of The Day: Two days after placing third in the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's campaign is warning of a hoax email sent to supporters claiming that the campaign's Iowa chairman, former Lieutenant Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats, is leaving the fold. "I'm not leaving my guy any time," Vander Plaats told the Register, strongly denying the rumors. The email hoax says Vander Plaats is off to support Romney, who led the Iowa poll with 29%, to Huckabee's 12%.

-- Today On The Trail: The GOP candidates head to Dearborn, Michigan, for the debate tonight. McCain offers a speech to the Detroit Economic Club earlier in the day, while Paul rallies with students at the University of Michigan. Romney and Giuliani hold post-debate rallies. On the Democratic side, Clinton continues rolling through Iowa, with stops in Webster City and Humboldt. Obama is in Londonderry and Plymouth, New Hampshire. Edwards visits beautiful Seaside, Oregon (Hint: Don't go to the aquarium, you'll just get depressed) addressing the Oregon AFL-CIO, and Kucinich meets students at a community college in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Otter Now Showing Craig The Door

Not content with Senator Larry Craig's on-again, off-again resignation promises, Idaho Governor Butch Otter is doing his level best to push Craig off the precipice without actually saying it. Otter Friday released a list of two dozen Idaho residents who have expressed some interest in replacing Craig in the Senate.

The list, Otter's office notes, does not include those whose names were submitted by others or those who told Otter they didn't want their names made public. Finally, the list doesn't include those who promised to move to Idaho to accept the Senate seat (Did Alan Keyes really call Otter?).

Notable names on the list include Lieutenant Gov. Jim Risch, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, State Senators Mike Jorgensen, John McGee and Gary Schroeder, State Representatives Scott Bedke, Russ Mathews and Ken Roberts, and 2006 Congressional candidates Robert Vasquez and Sheila Sorensen, who lost to Rep. Bill Sali in the primary.

While Craig nears the September 30th date on which he "intends" to resign, Idaho Republicans, like their national counterparts, are leaving little doubt which way they hope Craig goes.