Incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick may not have been prepared for the onslaught of the campaign run by Republican Raul Labrador for the Idaho 1st U.S. House District seat. Coming down to the wire, will a negative ad and last-minute endorsement be game-changers?
Recapping the House race
Attempting to capitalize on anti-incumbent midterm election sentiment, Labrador is taking on Minnick, who held his seat since November 2008. While this elected position may be relatively new, the politician whom Gov Track identifies as a moderate Democrat actually has deep roots in the D.C. political machine. He served originally on President Nixon's staff but resigned.
It is unclear at which stage of the race the gloves came off, but it is fair to say that Labrador did not take kindly to seeing Minnick endorsed by the Tea Party Express (even though Minnick declined the endorsement). Because the incumbent is notably moderate, Labrador is seeking to eke out a clear differentiation by adopting a conservative party-line stance.
Ads and debates polarize candidates, exasperate voters
Both Minnick and Labrador are playing up their centrist and conservative positions respectively. Yet as the Boise Weekly highlights, their barbed rhetoric fails to connect with voters. A town hall meeting began with talking points and quickly turned into name-calling and heated accusations. Fanning the flames of discord are also the ads run by the candidates.
Most notable is the recent Minnick ad that places Labrador under fire for opposing the veterans' license plate bill on principle. Taking issue with the supposed anti-military sentiment of Republican challenger, the incumbent relies on this ad to paint his opponent as a party-line politician who is not swayed by facts.
Endorsement might provide needed boost for Labrador
A frustrated electorate does not take kindly to a negative challenger, and Labrador could have seen his campaign effort stalled just a week away from Election Day were it not for the former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. The career politician and lobbyist focused on the skills and attitudes that Labrador can bring to the table, and it appears that the last-minute endorsement has had an impact on the polling.
Although in July it looked as though Minnick had a comfortable 23-point lead over Labrador, which actually increased to 30 points in September, this lead has gradually but significantly diminished. At the beginning on October, the lead had narrowed to six points and toward the end of the month it dwindled to a mere three points.
The association of Labrador with hard-lined conservative stances is not nearly as damaging as the guilt by companionship that Minnick shares with Nancy Pelosi and others whose politics find little favor with the electorate. With the last-minute endorsement showing a polling impact, it is anyone's guess if there is a final October surprise that will propel Labrador ahead of the incumbent in the Idaho 1st U.S. House District race.