There is really no suspense in the Idaho race as Butch Otter, the Republican incumbent Governor is up by 18 points, and incumbent Senator Mike Crapo has a huge lead in the polls. Both are expected to be easily re-elected. That leaves the only suspense in the First District race between incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick and challenger Raul Labrador. Minnick had been trailing by as many as 10 points in this race. Using RCP averages, Labrador still maintains a 1 point lead in the polls. However, it is difficult to see Minnick losing. Granted, this is a very red state, but Minnick is a Blue Dog Democrat who voted against the Obama stimulus, cap-and-trade, and Obamacare. Those are the three biggies that Republicans have a rigt to fight Democrats on this year. And Minnick has passed the test there. So if Minnick was to win, would it be that great a loss for the Republicans other than a number?
A special note about this election I found perplexing sitting in my home in New Jersey. Raul Labrador was the "surprise" GOP nominee and primary winner defeating the party establishment favorite. To some, this indicated a rift in the Idaho Republican Party. First, if rifts in the Idaho Republican Party create a virtual Republican sweep of the national races, then perhaps more rifts are needed. Second, this year is quite unique given the anti-incumbent fervor out there. It is actually more of an anti-establishment fervor and from where I sit, when it comes to conservative political revolutions, Idaho looks like a nice place to start one.
In Iowa, incumbent Democratic Governor Chet Culver appears headed for defeat at the hands of Terry Branstad- a clear Republican pick up among statehouses. Branstad, a former Governor, has a favorability rating among Iowans hovering somewhere around 70% compared to Culver's 50%. The fact that the Iowa TEA Party gave Branstad a "no" vote on their criteria has not hurt him in that area and suggests that in certain ways- or more appropriately, in certain areas- Iowa is more "progressive" than some of it's immediate neighbors. In the Senate, Charles Grassley, the Republican incumbent, currently leads his opponent Roxanne Conlin by about 18 points. To put Grassley's popularity into perspective in Iowa, excluding his initial run against, ironically, the current Governor's father, he has not received less than 60% of the vote. He is on that trajectory again. And just to give an idea of the schism in Iowa politics, their other Senator is the damn-well-near-socialist, Tom Harkin.
The Congressional delegation is currently 3-2 Democrats and in all probability, they will retain the 1st and 2nd districts while Steve King should hold down the 5th District for the Republicans. In the 4th district, Republican Tom Latham was/is considered vulnerable by the Democrats. The Cook Report gives this district a partisan rating of 0.4 Democratic. However, Latham has easily won his elections even in 2008 when Obama was taking the district by 8 points. Most importantly in Latham's favor is his membership on the House Appropriations Committee. That leaves the 3rd district where Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell faces a serious challenge from Republican Brad Zaun. Zaun has been up as much as 8 points in the polls but has dropped as low as a 2-point favorite. The Third District includes Des Moines, Boswell's base of operations and his average win margin has been 12 points. And perhaps the biggest problem for Boswell is that he calls himself a Blue Dog Democrat, but his voting record on major Obama initiatives says something else: he voted for Wall street reform package, Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and the Obama stimulus. That may pander to his Democratic base in the district, but it creates a lightning rod in the hands of his opponent. There is a very real chance that Boswell will be toppled.
Meanwhile in Kansas, it would appear that the Governor's race totally shaped the political landscape in Kansas this year. With incumbent Republican Senator Sam Brownback announcing his intentions to leave the Senate to run for Kansas Governor, it set off a chain of events opening up a Senate seat and two Congressional seats among Republicans. And, in fact, Brownback leads Tom Holland, his Democratic opponent, by 29 points in recent polling and appears a shoo-in to be the next Governor of Kansas- a Republican pick up in that area. As for his Senate seat, Lisa Johnson is the Democratic nominee. The Republican primary was contested between two incumbent Congressmen- Jerry Moran of the 1st and Todd Tiahrt in the 4th. Moran won the primary and currently enjoys a 38-point lead in the polls.
Among the four Congressional districts in Kansas, the lone incumbent running for re-election is Republican Lynn Jenkins in the 2nd District. In the 1st, Republican Tim Huelskamp should hold that area for the Republicans. This district is very rural and quite conservative and composes half the land mass of the state. The 3rd District is currently held by the lone Democrat- Dennis Moore- who is retiring. The Democratic nominee is Stephene Moore, his wife. She opposes Republican Kevin Yoder. The interesting aspect about this district is that Moore has been a Congressman since 1999 as a Democrat in a district rated +3.0 Republican by the Cook Report on their PVI. The true character of the district, however, like the rest of Kansas is that this is a Republican area. Before Moore, Republicans held this district since 1961. Hence, assuming trends hold true, this district is ripe for a Republican pick-up and should win this year. The last area is the 4th District being vacated by Todd Tiahrt in his failed bid to win the Republican nod for Senate.
This area includes Wichita and pits Republican Mike Pompeo against Democrat Raj Goyle. Democrats believe they have a chance in this race and truthfully from what I have read here in New Jersey, Pompeo is shooting himself in the foot in a district that basically has given 30 point advantages to Republicans. The most recent poll shows Pompeo ahead 49-42. Of course, the biggest controversy is the alleged mistaken posting on Pompeo's Facebook and Twitter pages directing readers to a racially derogatory link (it described Goyle as a "turban topper"). Pompeo quickly apologized and took the link down. However, in the Republican primary, Pompeo also "condoned" some negative ads against his opponent. How this plays out may be much ado about nothing or it may be the thing that turns off the voters of the 4th District in Kansas. If Pompeo attacks the Democrat on the issues and lets history and demographics take its natural course, he will win. In short, like anywhere else, the negativity is turning people off this year. For the sake of the Republican Party in Kansas, hopefully enough voters were not turned off to the GOP in this District.
Tomorrow- New Jersey, my home state. And again, if you live in Idaho, Iowa, or Kansas, please add to or clarify anything I have written.