If yesterday’s election in Idaho had been a Little League baseball game, it would have been called on account of the ten run rule.
Republicans gained four seats in the state House of Representatives, held all the Constitutional offices and recaptured the Congressional seat held for the last two years by Democrat Walt Minnick.
As elections go, this one was a tidal wave.
The huge Republican majorities in the Idaho Legislature will soon enough face big challenges, including more budget cutting – potentially including education and social services – but the GOP and Gov. Butch Otter can bask, for a while at least, in the sure knowledge that voters were in no mood to punish them for historic cuts in school spending or for presiding over a still struggling economy. Quite the contrary, Idaho Republicans seem more dominate than ever against a dispirited, disorganized opposition.
Otter’s victory was nothing short of astounding. He won just over 59% of the vote against four opponents and held Democrat Keith Allred to the worst showing for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate since 1998. Allred’s eastern Idaho and Magic Valley strategy was a bust. The governor polled nearly exactly the same number of votes in Bonneville County (Idaho Falls) as he did in 2006, but Allred didn’t come close to matching the vote Democrat Jerry Brady managed in the same area four years earlier.
With his LDS faith becoming a focus of attention in October, Allred carried not a single county in heavily Mormon eastern Idaho. He only came close in Bannock County (Pocatello) where Brady beat Otter four years ago. When all was said and done, Allred won only two counties – dependably Democratic Blaine (Sun Valley) and Latah (Moscow) by a narrow margins.
In the Raul Labrador – Minnick race, there will be, I suspect, a good deal of analysis of Minnick’s hard hitting television attacks on the Republican, but the backlash factor – and there was a backlash – can’t entirely account for Labrador’s comfortable ten point win. Minnick, always an uncomfortable Democrat in a very conservative district, won by the wave in 2008 and lost by it, as well. In a year when the GOP was headed to a nearly 60 seat pickup in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was – in perfect hindsight – nearly impossible that one of those seats was not going to be in the First District of Idaho.
Take nothing away from Congressman-elect Labrador. Out spent 5 to 1, he pulled two “upsets” this year – a primary and a general election win, neither of which he was expected to accomplish.
There was nothing anti-incumbent about this election. It was anti-Democrat. Idaho is painted deep RED today and it is likely to stay that way for a long, long time.