Sabato's Crystal Ball

Idaho (01) House 2010

Crystal Ball Outlook: Leans R

Democratic candidate: Walt Minnick, incumbent

Republican candidate: Raul Labrador, attorney and businessman

Recent Updates from the Crystal Ball

Background:

Much like the famous children’s television character, first-term Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick is a purple DINOsaur, as in a Democratic In Name Only who can’t decide whether he wants to be Blue or Red. Minnick defeated Republican Bill Sali by a margin of 51-49 in 2008, and he succeeded in doing this by acting, essentially, like a libertarian. Minnick ran on a platform of limited government intervention, opposition to increasing the capital gains tax, support for abortion rights, and support for gun rights. However, while Minnick was able to convince voters of his viability in 2008, voters may not be so inclined to embrace him in 2010, especially given that the Republicans are desperate to regain a traditionally Republican seat.
Minnick’s victory was somewhat surprising because the Idaho 1st Congressional District is an unequivocally Red district. The district is 87 percent white and 1 percent African-American, went for George Bush with 68 percent of the vote in both 2000 and 2004, went for John McCain with 62 percent of the vote in 2008, and, prior to 2008, had not sent a Democrat to Congress since 1992. Minnick, while a congressional Democrat, has boosted his conservative credentials by joining the Blue Dog Coalition and voting against the economic stimulus package, one of only 11 House Democrats to do so. But while he has gone to great lengths to prove himself a conservative, the fact the he is a member of the Democratic Party makes his position tenuous in this Republican bastion.

As such, multiple Republicans have come forward to challenge Minnick in 2010. 2008 Republican nominee Bill Sali has filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC, but many Republicans view Sali as a less than ideal candidate, given his numerous personal gaffes during the 2008 campaign. Two other candidates, McCain’s Nevada campaign director Vaughn Ward and Idaho House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts have both declared their intention to challenge Minnick in 2010.

In short, the Idaho 1st is going to be very much a toss-up in 2010. Minnick’s conservative credentials and incumbency will play well for him, but Republicans will not go down without a fight, especially when the Republican Party sees itself as the conservative standard bearer in Idaho.