Idaho Votes And Now, What’s Next?
In the end, despite the efforts of the normal guy, the comments of the biker, the passion of the curmudgeon, Idaho Republican primary voters chose the cowboy Tuesday to represent them in November. After a contentious primary season, highlighted by a nose to nose confrontation, literally, between GOP Chairman Barry Peterson and Governor Butch Otter, a debate that drew national attention for all the wrong reasons, countless volunteer efforts by grassroots activists, the GOP of Idaho made their decision. Here are a few thoughts on the winners and losers.
Governor Butch Otter continues his quest for a third term. Despite losing Ada and Canyon Counties, the governor rallied to win the rest of the state. This victory can be attributed to a few things. (All of them were beyond Russ Fulcher's control.) When you have name recognition, the incumbency, money, and the organization you should win and win big.
Sooner of later, like in sports, the team with the most resources slowly wears down the opposition with limited resources. This campaign was one of attrition and we saw that in the governor's wins throughout the state. Otter prevailed despite his views on the health exchange, common core, and the lands issue.
How did he do it?
The governor ran to his strengths. He limited his interaction with his opponent and let his personal charisma and record do the heavy lifting. Although criticized for not debating Fulcher one on one, that was the perfect move for his campaign. Why give your opposition equal time when it isn't necessary? Public Television's lack of backbone helped make the debate the laughing stock of the nation.
The fallout from the debate wasn't a clear difference between the 'normal guy' and the 'cowboy', but clips of Harley Brown auditioning for Saturday Night Live. Without a clear Reagan moment, 'there you go again,' voters' attention focused on the sizzle and not the steak. If the debate had been one on one, perhaps there would've been a knockout moment for Fulcher that could've moved the undecided his way. The governor did not allow that to happen. He did not beat himself and now he moves on to a November match up with AJ Balukoff.
Balukoff remains a mystery as he continues to snipe at the governor via paid and social media. He spoke of Russ Fulcher as an unknown, however has anyone heard of AJ outside of the Boise School System? Look for AJ and all the libs to attempt to merge the education issue with their candidacy. Education is the dems only silver bullet, see Kuna Levy results for more details, but it's limited on the big stage.
The governor adroitly created his education task force and has followed their guidelines. Including returning past cuts to the education budget. FYI... Regardless of how competitive this race becomes look for Mitt Romney to appear in ads and on TV for Governor Otter. Romeny's endorsement will limit any LDS defections that could happen in the general election.
Back to Balukoff, he may have the money, but where is the motivation? Now that Governor Otter has won a closed primary against a fired up grassroots base, imagine what he'll do in the general against an unknown democrat. You can take it to the bank that we will all be covering the governor's third term inaugural in January.
Russ Fulcher made the most of his opportunity. He and his band, the rebel alliance, maximized every opportunity. Could he have done more? You know the old saying, 'hindsight is always 20/20." He was outspent two to one and we won't know the final numbers until the end of the quarter. The fact that Fulcher came within nine points of winning the nomination is significant. It should send a message to the Otter camp that it's time to turn on the charm and mend fences.
Could the outcome have been different?
Perhaps, if the senator had committed to 'no new tax pledge' and demanded the governor promise not to support expanding medicaid or the fuel tax. Most experts believed would've happened last session if not for the primary. Could that have moved the meter? Maybe it might have forced the Otter campaign to react. Then again, money and name recognition take their toll.
Notice in this primary, that this race was about the issues, not personal attacks. Something that was missing in the Simpson/Smith embarrassment. The civility in this contest allows Senator Fulcher to be the clear favorite four years from now. He's a young man and might take the next four years to work the state and raise money. Then again, he might decide he likes having a life outside of politics.
Primaries always bring out the hardcore party faithful as well as an eclectic cast of characters. Look for the cowboy to herd this group to victory in November. The ride to the sunset will have to wait for four more years.