The Rockin Johnny B

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Idaho's race for governor just got really, really weird

Republican Gov. Butch Otter has never been particularly popular even in this dark red state, but it was still a surprise when the Republican Governor's Association[RGA] committed six figures to this race at the beginning of October. It was hard to believe that the RGA would spend so much so late in the cycle unless the group didn't think Otter was safe, and a new Public Policy Polling [PPP] survey confirms that this contest is a lot more interesting that previously thought.

PPP finds Otter leading wealthy conservative Democrat A.J. Balukoff only 39-36, with four independent candidates taking a combined 12 percent (this includes 3 percent for a perennial candidate who legally changed his name to "Pro-Life"). Otter appears to have worn out his welcome with his constituents, and he sports an underwater 36-49 job approval rating. By contrast Balukoff, who has been freely spending his own money, sports a 38-32 favorability rating.

There have been very few other polls out of Idaho, but there's another good reason to believe that PPP and the RGA are seeing similar numbers. The RGA just went on the air with another spot, this one tying Balukoff to Obama as closely as possible. Balukoff was a Romney supporter in 2012, but of course that's not stopping the RGA from linking him to the president, who PPP finds is very unpopular here.

Democrats haven't won a gubernatorial election in the Gem State since Cecil Andrus' landslide 1990 re-election victory, and Balukoff still has an uphill climb. Some late polls in 2006 found Democrat Jerry Brady looking very competitive against Otter, but the Republican still won 53-44. Otter may also have some room to grow here. When supporters of the third-party candidates are asked to pick between Otter and Balukoff, the governor's overall lead becomes 47-38. Independent candidates tend to lose support as the campaign concludes, and Otter stands to benefit. Still, it's clear that Otter does not have this race locked up yet. As a result, Daily Kos Elections is changing our race rating from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.

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