After a dizzying and hectic schedule last Tuesday, there's only one state holding a primary this week. It's Idaho, and there's only one contest worth watching.
In the First Congressional District, where the GOP has had freshman Rep. Walt Minnick (D) in their sights from Day One, two Republicans are locked in a tight and increasingly negative contest. State Rep. Raul Labrador, backed by the Boise Tea Party, faces Vaughn Ward, a Marine veteran and former Boise State college football player, who has the endorsement of Sarah Palin. While Palin has been involving herself in GOP primaries across the country, this one has particular resonance: she was born in Sandpoint, in the district, and graduated from the University of Idaho.
The Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell writes that "although he’s been viewed as the front-runner, with high-profile endorsements from a number of top GOP elected officials, a big lead in fundraising and a nine-month jump on Labrador in campaigning, Ward’s campaign has suffered in recent weeks from a string of embarrassing revelations":
Those have ranged from his violating military regulations with a campaign ad, to being late paying his property taxes, to cribbing position statements from other candidates. Another was his failure to vote in the 2008 general election, despite being on the staff of the McCain-Palin campaign; Ward said he was too busy with the campaign to return to Idaho to vote.
Palin suggested Ward could be muddied as he seeks a seat in Congress. “The left and some of the lamestream media, they can really play dirty sometimes, trust me on this one, I know this one,” Palin declared. “The things that they can do could be quite hurtful, so now more than ever Vaughn’s going to need your support.”
The Idaho Statesman's Barker & Moeller report that in Palin's Friday visit on behalf of Ward, she made only one reference to Minnick. Even though the congressman "has voted against his own party more than any other in his one term in office" (and has the endorsement of the national Tea Party Express group), Palin said "those conservative votes aren't enough":
Walt, it's who you're hanging with. We need someone to take a stand against the big government agenda of Nancy Pelosi.
In addition to the primary in the First, Gov. Butch Otter (R) faces several challengers but is heavily favored to win both renomination and re-election in November. Another odds-on favorite for re-election is GOP Sen. Mike Crapo.