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September 08, 2008

Bill Sali, Smooth Political Operator

Idaho Rep. Bill Sali is doing his best to help out the Republican team by trying to clear the way for his Senate candidate, KTVB and the Associated Press reported this weekend.

Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who is running for retiring Senator Larry Craig's seat, probably appreciates the efforts, but so far they've been less than successful.

Sali called Libertarian candidate Kent Marmon and explained his presence on the November ballot could strip votes from Risch, the GOP nominee, and instead hand the race to ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco. Marvin Richardson, another independent candidate who legally changed his name to Pro-Life, also got a phone call from Sali.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Risch's conservative coalition comes from rancher Rex Rammell, another independent candidate who actually has a personal beef with Risch (As acting governor, Risch ordered Rammell's escaped elk hunted down to prevent them from mixing with wild elk in the area). Rammell told KTVB that he'd received a phone call asking him to drop out, but he wouldn't say who called him.

The rancher could skim a few points off Risch's total. In a year in which Democrats expect to do well -- the party has made Sali a top target -- a small percentage of Risch's coalition heading to other candidates could give former Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco the votes he needs to steal the seat from Republicans.

While Sali tried to help, his efforts appear to have missed the mark. Marmon, Pro-Life and Rammell all say they will stay on the ballot.

Risch and LaRocco last faced off in the race for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, when the Republican won by a wide 58%-39% margin.