Smith said his polling in past years has found that Republican Congressional candidates running in presidential years received anywhere from a 4-point to 9-point boost from the GOP presidential nominee. Although Smith predicts the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), will fall short of Bush’s huge 2004 victory margin, he still expects the Arizonan to win Idaho handily.
Sali has been viewed as a weak candidate since he won a crowded 2006 1st district GOP primary with just 26 percent of the vote. The Club for Growth backed him in that race and helped put him over the top via contributions from its members and independent expenditure advertising it conducted in the district.
But the Club for Growth currently has no plans to aid Sali in this year’s general election campaign, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which spent heavily on Sali’s race in 2006, is strapped for cash this cycle and is unlikely to spend its limited resources in such a heavy Republican district. Sali won the 2006 general election by just 5 points.
The Minnick campaign plans to capitalize on its cash advantage by hitting Sali hard and early. The Democrat’s team concedes that beating Sali will be tough,but argues that a viable path to victory exists.
“We’re going to take it to [Sali] early,” Minnick campaign spokesman John Foster said. “We’re going to be very aggressive about defining Walt and defining Sali while we have momentum and energy and some things tilting in our favor. We’re not going to sit back here for the summer and wait for Labor Day.”
“There’s a reason,” Foster continued, “why the DCCC broke precedent and added Walt to ‘Red to Blue’ before the June update.”
Minnick, 65, is the former CEO of a multimillion dollar forest products company. He recently stepped down from heading a home-improvement store chain that he founded to run for Congress.
Minnick’s campaign believes its candidate’s connections to the business community and his résumé as a successful businessman will make him an appealing alternative to Sali, who had a long history of divisive politics as a member of the state Legislature even though he has been controversy-free almost two years into his first term.
Minnick plans to appeal to the 1st district’s libertarian sensibilities by playing up his opposition to excessive business regulations and the USA Patriot Act — Otter voted against it when he was in Congress — and highlighting his support for gun rights (he owns seven guns).
But Minnick is likely to run into political trouble regarding his positions on other hot-button issues, including his pro-abortion-rights stance and his opposition to making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
The Sali campaign is ready to pounce. Hoffman, Sali’s campaign spokesman, referred to Minnick as an “extreme liberal” who has more in common with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) than he does with the average Idahoan.
“Congressman Sali is very conservative and he’s consistent,” Hoffman said. “That’s what Idahoans are going to vote for.”