I know many of you have been wondering what I thought about Dan Popkey's breathless and one-sided Sunday column on the 2006 Larry Grant campaign, for which I served as blogger and netroots coordinator. I just sent a letter to the Statesman editor that records (within the 200-word limit) my thoughts on the situation. I also believe that Randy Stapilus presented a much more measured view in his analysis at Ridenbaugh Press. (A snip: "This is a very Republican district that, up-ticket and down, continued its Republican voting patterns last year as they had been doing.") But I'll add a little more here.
I wasn't at all surprised to see Bill Sali apologist Adam Graham (pictured here, from left, with Sali, Larry Craig, and Norm Semanko) pounce with a lengthy diatribe hours after Popkey's piece appeared. Absurdly calling Popkey's work "the real story of the Grant campaign" - even though Popkey interviewed few if any of us on the staff and named none of his Democratic sources - Graham could hardly contain his glee in dancing on what he is sure will be Grant's political grave. Fellow theocrat Bryan Fischer intoned, "Graham suggests that the hit piece is a likely indication that the left has anointed already-declared candidate Rand Lewis as its choice to take on Sali in ’08, and Popkey’s piece is part of an effort to put a large enough dent in Grant’s plans to scare him off to avoid a primary challenge for Lewis. If so, expect puff-pieces in the not-too-distant future from Popkey celebrating the virtues of Mr. Lewis."
Come on! We're Idaho Democrats; we're not organized enough to anoint anyone, and even if we were, Popkey hardly does our bidding. We may be in for a lively primary next year, but I see no signs of mass defections from Grant - not when he worked overtime last year to help strengthen county Democratic organizations and support down-ballot candidates, and not when he built up a great amount of name ID and, let's face it, came within 5% of winning in a district George W. Bush took by nearly 40% in both 2000 and 2004. Idaho Rocks has a very good piece on how Grant earned the trust and respect of skeptical upstate North Idaho voters.
Despite all this late quarterbacking, the fact is Larry Grant isn't the issue. Bill Sali is, and he got less than 50% at the polls last November (and 26% in the primary). The majority of 1st District voters didn't want him, and many who chose him were simply picking the "R" guy as usual, perhaps because they were too busy or too distracted to research the candidates.
No, the real issue here isn't Larry Grant. It's Bill Sali, who is racking up a record of extremist votes in Congress, many intended to pay back the Club for Growth, which bankrolled his campaign. It's Bill Sali, who is dedicated to pleasing fringe-dwelling cheerleaders like Graham and Fischer, but who is alienating many moderate voters who are embarrassed by his votes and his views. Neither the Club for Growth nor the flame-breathing theocrats - nor Sali himself - represent the views of mainstream Idaho voters. If Sali's voting record is continually scrutinized as it should be - and if the media does a far better job in 2008 than it did last year in exposing the mostly out-of-state money that fueled Sali's narrow win - Grant has a good chance at getting this seat back in moderate hands, where it belongs.