The main choice in Tuesday's primary for Republican voters in Idaho's 1st Congressional District was between Vaughn Ward, an Iraq War veteran backed by Sarah Palin who was heralded as one of the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" for 2010, and state Rep. Raul Labrador, one of the more conservative members of the Idaho legislature who had the endorsement of the Boise Tea Party as well as former Rep. Bill Sali.
Sali, an outspoken conservative who had his own share of enemies in the GOP, lost his seat in 2008 to Democrat Walt Minnick.
Minnick, seeking a second term this year, is the only Democrat who boasts the support of the national Tea Party Express.
As my colleague Mark Memmott reports in an earlier blog post, Ward lost yesterday's primary to Labrador by a 48-39 percent margin.
The headlines will no doubt say that the result is a defeat for the GOP establishment (or for Palin). And while there's some truth to that, it's not that simple. Ward had committed one flub after another on the campaign trail, everything from the charge that he plagiarized a speech by President Obama to a debate he had with Labrador in which he seemingly called Puerto Rico a "country."
The candidates were asked if the U.S. territory should be made a state. Here's how Ward began his answer:
The problem with extending statehood to some, to any other country, is that then, the infrastructure requirements — everything that we have under our laws, regulations, then applies to them.
That was a bit much for the Puerto Rican-born Labrador, according to this account by The Hill's Sean Miller.
"I just need to correct," Labrador injected. "Puerto Rico's not a country." He suggested Ward take a "civics lesson."
"I really don’t care what it is," Ward replied. "It doesn't matter."
Here's a video of that debate; Ward's comments come at about 1:10 in.
From the day of his election in 2008, Minnick has been a top target of the GOP for 2010. But yesterday's primary, writes the Washington Post's Aaron Blake, "throws the Republican Party's chances in doubt." Labrador "is something of a blank slate to Washington." Plus, Minnick "has proven a savvy congressman, voting conservative on almost all major pieces of legislation and building a sizeable war chest for 2010. Republicans can't rely on merely a good environment to take him out."
In other Idaho primary results,Gov. Butch Otter (R) took nearly 55 percent against several GOP candidates, including Rex Rammell, who the Idaho Statesman says is "known nationally for joking about hunting President Obama." (That's a joke?) Otter will face Democrat Keith Allred in November.
In the Senate race, two-term incumbent Republican Mike Crapo took 78 percent of the primary vote and will be heavily favored in the fall against businessman Tom Sullivan (D).