Republicans in Idaho’s First District had their primary election yesterday to determine the nominee who will face incumbent Democrat Rep. Walt Minnick. As I have mentioned before and many know already, Minnick has the distinction of being the only House Democratic candidate endorsed by a major Tea Party organization. This report by Kyle Trygstad helps to explain why: Minnick is a fiscally conservative former Republican and now Blue Dog Democrat who has voted with his party only 70% of the time. By comparison, even Joseph Cao, who represents deepest-blue LA-02, has voted with his party 82% of the time. Minnick is the least reliable partisan in the entire House (or the most independent politician in the House, if you prefer), which may also give him the best chance of all of the Blue Dogs to hold his seat in the fall. Following Raul Labrador’s decisive 48-39% win in a five-way race over the mistake-prone, ridiculous Vaughn Ward, Minnick’s task has become much more difficult than it would have been.
As Trygstad explained and as Dave Weigel has reported previously, Ward has suffered a number of embarrassing setbacks in recent months. The more significant problems were charges of plagiarism against him, including his near-verbatim recitation of passages from Obama’s 2004 keynote address as if it were his own. No less embarrassing, but possibly less politically damaging, was his claim that he thought Puerto Rico was a foreign country in the context of answering a question on Puerto Rican statehood.
There’s no question that Republicans are better off in this district with Labrador as the nominee. It looks bad for the NRCC that one of the ten top recruits lost the primary, and it doesn’t help Palin’s reputation that she keeps backing losers in House races, but the good news for Republicans is that they have come out of t this week with a better chance to retake the seat than if the national and state party leadership had had its way. Labrador’s platform is run-of-the-mill Republicanism, and I wasn’t expecting anything creative or refreshing, but what is mildly encouraging about Labrador’s win is that the clueless NRCC and party leaders were unable to foist such a poor candidate on people in ID-01. It is much better that the actual local Idahoan and state representative prevailed. Needless to say, ID-01 is one of the most vulnerable Democratic districts in the country, and any Republican hopes of major gains depend on their being able to recover a seat that is this heavily Republican.