I originally scheduled this race for later in the series because of Montana. But, let’s start in the other less competitive states of Wyoming and Idaho. In Idaho, there is a considered lack of Democratic talent which that Party will readily admit. Besides the two congressional seats at stake, there is a Governor’s race and a Senatorial race. None of these races are “under the radar;” they are off the radar because they will just not be close. In the Senate race, incumbent Republican [mc_name name=’Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000584′ ] faces a relative unknown who, in an editorial, equated the “bomb throwers” in Washington (like [mc_name name=’Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000584′ ]) with the 9/11 terrorists. This may work in some liberal classroom, but not in Idaho. I am not wasting any more time on this race because it will not be close. Prediction: Risch by at least 30 points.
Former teacher and state representative Shirley Ringo will oppose Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’L000573′ ] in the First District race. The interesting part of this race, which Labrador will easily win, is Labrador’s future. As he enters his third term, the question among Idaho voters is whether he will assume a greater leadership role in the GOP in the 114th Congress. The Second District will also go to Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001148′ ].
As for the Governor’s race, Republican incumbent Butch Otter will face the chairman of the Boise Board of Education, A.J. Balukoff. Some believe that Otter may vulnerable since he only garnered 51% of the vote in the GOP primary. Further, the presence of a bona fide Libertarian candidate and another independent (who legally changed his name to Pro Life) could suck votes from Otter. During recent debates, he seemed on the defensive about educational spending. Also working against Otter is his attempt at an unprecedented third term. The RGA has recently infused some money into this race to shore up Otter. Still in all, it is hard to believe that Balukoff will win this race despite his aggressive campaigning and debate performances. Prediction: Butch Otter by 15-20 points.
The only intrigue in Wyoming was the GOP primary where incumbent Governor Matt Mead had two opponents. Given his running feud with Cindy Hill, many expected a close race, but she actually finished third in that primary and Mead cruised to victory. He will face Democrat Pete Gosar and Mead should win by at least 25 points.
In the Senate race, incumbent Republican Mike Enzi faces token opposition from Democrat Charlie Hardy- this year’s Democratic sacrificial lamb in Wyomin. Hardy is trying to portray Enzi as a front man for corporations, a strategy falling on deaf ears. Enzi will win again by about 25 points and [mc_name name=’Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’L000571′ ] will easily defeat Richard Grayson in the at-large congressional seat.
Now onto Montana where the real political intrigue in this group of states occurred. With the announced retirement of [mc_name name=’Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B000243′ ], the Democratic incumbent, the GOP quickly eyed this seat. When Baucus was tapped by Obama for a position in his administration, it sped up his retirement timeline. As everyone expected a Baucus retirement, [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000618′ ]- the GOP at-large congressman- entered the race and easily won his primary. On the Democratic side, [mc_name name=’Sen. John Walsh (D-MT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’W000818′ ] was appointed to fill out the term of Baucus. In the Democratic primary, some thought that John Bohlinger would present a challenge to Walsh, but Walsh prevailed with 64% of the vote.
It is great to know that the Republican Party’s candidates are not the only ones with a propensity to shoot themselves in the feet. Along the way, it was revealed that Walsh had plagiarized a very large portion of a thesis for the US Army War College. Amid this scandal, he then dropped out of the race. At the subsequent Democratic convention held in Helena, the party chose state representative Amanda Curtis.
Even before the scandal broke, Daines was leading by double digits and it was his race to lose. Because Curtis is now the candidate, Daines essentially can sit back and let nature take its course. The reason is suspicions that Curtis is a veiled socialist. Her husband, for example, is a representative for the Industrial Workers of the World, a group dedicated to the abolition of capitalism. She has also praised some labor leaders who had clear ties to the Communist Party.
One has to question why the Democratic Party in Montana chose Curtis when there were more electable candidates like Dirk Adams or John Bohlinger available. The convention vote was not even close. As a state representative from Butte, her YouTube contributions included snarky commentary against Christianity and the Second Amendment. That may be fine in a small liberal state legislative district, but not under a statewide microscope.
Speaking of that IWW group, their stated goals are: “a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.” This is talk better left in the dustbin of 20th century failed economic systems that even former Communist countries have repudiated. It is as if the Democratic Party in Montana went to Berkeley in 1969 to seek a candidate.
Montana is not as “red” as some believe. After all, they have had a succession of Democratic Governors and both Tester and Baucus are Democrats. There are little bastions of liberal/progressive tendencies in the state. However, if Curtis were to win, then Montana would be associated with another kind of red and that is something that will never happen in this state.
So, kudos to the Democratic Party of Montana for twice inflicting wounds on itself for not properly vetting your candidates for a Senate seat which the Democratic Party needs to retain control of the Senate. Daines just has to sit back and let Curtis implode. He has agreed to a single debate; Curtis wanted 14. Prediction: [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’D000618′ ] by no less than 23 points.
For his open congressional seat, Ryan Zinke- a former Navy SEAL- somewhat surprised pundits by defeating Corey Stapleton for the GOP nod. In terms of the tendencies of Montana voters, Zinke is not too far to the Right and he is definitely nowhere near the Left. His opponent tried to make an issue of Zinke’s record as a SEAL. When finally released, it revealed several commendations and nothing of a negative nature, although some sections were redacted. This will be a closer race than the Senate race because both candidates are more low profile than Daines or Curtis. Still, the seat should remain in Republican hands with Zinke winning by about 10 points.
As of this article, the GOP has now gained 3 seats in the Senate.
Next: We stay out west and look at Oregon and Hawaii.