Western state Republicans in complete meltdown

Colorado. Idaho. Nevada. California. From crazy to corrupt to down in the polls, the Republican Party is imploding all over the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Let’s start with Colorado. You already know about sexist Senate candidate Ken Buck and the gubernatorial primary between plagiarist Scott McInnis and finance cheat Dan Maes. Both stories have new developments. Buck was caught yet again making stupid comments on tape, referring to birthers as “dumbasses”. He was obviously right and I’m with him every step of the way, but it still won’t help him in a GOP primary. But it’s the governor’s race where we really get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Former Repub Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Trancedo jumped in the race for governor this week as an independent. He he was interviewed yesterday alongside state Repub chair Dick Wadhams on Peter Boyles’ radio show. The interview quickly escalated into a public screaming match, and if you’ve got twenty minutes you really should listen. It’s  just plain fun. The interview starts about ten minutes into the clip with Tancredo being a rude jerk, but by the end Wadhams is making unreasonable demands and calling both Tancredo and Boyles liars. The two men said that Wadhams has told them he dislikes both McInnis and Maes, so not only is the public meltdown fun, it also reveals new party rifts. All of a sudden this Senate seat and this statehouse don't seem to be in nearly as much trouble for Democrats as they were.

If Colorado Repubs feel lonely, all they have to do is look northwest to my neck of the woods, Idaho. I’ve already told you about the state GOP convention, which passed a resolution stating all Repub lawmakers must sign a loyalty oath to try and repeal direct election of senators. That same post also described Sarah Palin’s birthplace in Bonner County, where Repubs are protesting the local fair’s use of the word “fiesta.” The crazy gets worse with ID-01 nominee Raul Labrador, who called for repeal of the 17th amendment before the state GOP did, says our energy policy should be “increasing the production of fossil fuels,” and, like the Colorado GOP and the man he beat in the primary, is a plagiarist. This is an +18 district where McCain won by 25 points – and yet Labrador can’t so much as win the support of the NRCC, the Tea Party Express or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Small wonder the endangered first-term Democrat Walt Minnick has a 16-1 advantage in cash-on-hand and national pundits are moving the race from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.”

But what happens at the federal level is a symptom of what happens at the local level, and state Rep. Phil Hart of Athol, here in Kootenai County, is our own little Charlie Rangel. Hart is under investigation by the state House ethics committee for tax issues. He’s been late on paying county taxes for 8 years in a row, but the county should consider itself lucky – he owes nearly $700,000 in unpaid federal and state taxes. The man’s not just a tax cheat, either – he’s a thief. The liens include $13,014 in unpaid federal withholding taxes at his engineering firm. In other words, he took his employees’ tax money but kept it for himself rather than turning it over to the government. And the best part? He sits on the House subcommittee that affects issues like his but insists there’s no conflict of interest. Hart and the Idaho GOP are a bigger joke than the name of the town he represents – Athol. But not to worry, he says; the citizens of Idaho are better off for his crimes. “I think it makes you a better legislator, to have these life experiences.”

And of course, you already know about Nevada and the crazy that is Sharron Angle. After a series of missteps – defending BP, calling for the repeal of Medicare and Social Security – she is starting to face criticism from within her own party.

"Sharron's first six weeks have been atrocious," said Danny Tarkanian, who was defeated in Nevada's GOP Senate primary. "I think she would admit to that."…

Before endorsing Angle in her election fight, former Nevada Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich warned the Tea Party darling, "You're scaring the bejesus out of everybody."

Republican Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who backed Angle's GOP primary opponent, Sue Lowden, settled on endorsing Reid in the state's general election match-up. "Our state [would] suffer and we would never get anything done," Cashell said of the prospect of Angle being elected.

If California Republicans were hoping that maybe the San Gabriels would insulate them from the mountain west, they’re going to be very disappointed. Despite a new ad-buy from the NRSC, a new PPP poll shows that Democrat Barbara Boxer finally has a comfortable lead over the Palin-endorsed Carly Fiorina in CA-Sen at 49-40. Boxer hasn’t been up by this much since May. (The poll also found that 19% of voters have a higher opinion of Boxer’s hair and 14% have a higher opinion of Fiorina’s hair. 67% are not sure.)

This sure is a good month to be a western Democrat. Whoa, I feel good… I knew that I would now… so good… so good…

Idaho Republicans hate the word “fiesta,” demand repeal of the 17th Amendment, and require loyalty oath

Even when ID-01 is in Democratic hands, Repubs still know how to steal the show. Two inane stories the past couple weeks. First, at their state convention, the party voted to enshrine repealing the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) into their party platform, as well as demand that all Repub candidates sign a party loyalty oath. Second, the Bonner County Republican Party is outraged, OUTRAGED! that their county’s fair has chosen “Fiesta” as this year’s theme. This is America and we speak American, gulldarnit!

Let’s think about that party platform for a second: signing a loyalty oath to support repeal of the 17th Amendment. That means that if you’re pro-life, think Obama is a socialist, want to get rid of social security and the income tax, and can’t wait to drill baby drill but also think that people should have their right to elect their own representatives, then you are not right-wing enough for the Idaho Repub Party. By the way, that 17th Amendment? It was originally co-sponsored and introduced by an Idaho Republican in 1911, Senator William Borah.

From the Idaho Democratic Party:

It is now clear that the "new" Idaho Republican Party is interested not in governing but in ruling our state and its people...

Some of these extremist proposals included disbanding all Idaho public schools, creating a state militia, forbidding closure of poorly run publicly-funded charter schools that are drowning in red ink, and rejecting school-based vaccination clinics (vaccinations were called "unnecessary drugging of our children").

"The Idaho Democratic Party welcomes all well-intentioned voters to join us in finding solutions to the problems this state now faces. We embrace a wide range of views and voters. At the same time, the Idaho Republican Party is quickly moving to the extreme right, far away from its traditional, moderate center," stated [Democratic Chairman Keith] Roark.

To Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)’s credit, he refuses to sign the loyalty oath.

But that’s not even half as crazy as one of the county parties. Just north of my home in Kootenai County, Repubs are furious that a Spanish word - "fiesta" - was chosen (way back in January) as the theme for this year’s Bonner County Fair. In protest, they have declared that the theme of their booth will be "celebrate," and they have written to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to ask if she has any Arizona license plates she could spare for them to decorate their booth.

The Twin Falls Times-News titled their responding editorial, “A bigot is a bigot, in any language” and said that Repubs should “avoid insulting 10 percent of your political constituency.” But my favorite line from this whole affair comes from Fair Board Chairman Tim Cary, who asked of the food court, "Are we supposed to change the name of a burrito to something in English?"

Small wonder that CQ just upgraded ID-01, once the national Repubs’ top target, from "toss-up" to 'leans Dem."

Update 3:49 EDT: Per Boise Weekly, the Bonner County Democrats have responded to the fiesta flap. Chairwoman Laura Bry says they will have donkey piñatas at their booth.

I should also point out that Sarah Palin was born in Bonner County.

GOP fails to get Carney (PA-10) to switch parties

Republicans are hoping other Democrats will follow the example of Parker Griffith (AL-05), who switched parties this week. According to the Politico,

Democratic Rep. Chris Carney received a phone call Wednesday from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asking him to consider becoming a Republican, a top GOP official told POLITICO.

A spokesman for Carney declined to say if the congressman was considering such a switch.

"No further comment at this time," said Carney spokesman Josh Drobnyk, who would only confirm that the call took place.

In a brief interview, McCain declined to offer details about the conversation.

"I just said, `Whatever you do, I know that you'll make the right decision for the country,'" said the Arizonan.

Carney defeated Republican incumbent Don Sherwood in 2006. Pennsylvania's 10th district has a PVI of R+8. Carney voted for the stimulus bill and the House version of health care reform, so I doubt he could survive a GOP primary, even though he did vote against the climate change bill.

In any event, Carney has "no plans to change parties," according to a statement he released today.

Meanwhile, conservative Democrats Walt Minnick (ID-01) and Bobby Bright (AL-02) also confirmed that they not switching. Like Griffith, Minnick and Bright have opposed key items of the Democratic agenda.

Update [2009-12-23 21:47:11 by Jonathan Singer]: This story gives me the opportunity to post one of the most memorable political ads of all time, one that really helped seal the deal for Carney in 2006. An ad by his opponent.

There's more...

ID-01: Sali Concedes

The good news keeps rolling in. The West got even bluer this afternoon.

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ID-01: Not a Pickup in 2006... But Perhaps in 2008?

Despite the fact that Democrat Larry Grant was outspent by more than a 2-to-1 margin when expenditures by candidates and party committees are included in a district, Idaho 1, that leans significantly towards the Republicans (PVI R+19), Grant only narrowly lost to Republican Bill Sali, 50 percent to 45 percent. In a rematch race this cycle between the freshman Sali and Grant, the political prognosticators seem to be uninterested, with neither The Rothenberg Political Report nor The Cook Political Report (.pdf) rating the contest as either competitive or potentially competitive. But new polling out of the Grant campaign may have the campaign watchers thinking twice. Aaron Blake has the details for The Hill.

Rep. Bill Sali's (R) approval rating is below 30 percent, and his disapproval mark is 46 percent, according to a poll released Monday by one of his opponents, 2006 Democratic nominee Larry Grant.

The poll showed just 29 percent of respondents approved of Sali. Grant was close behind at 28 percent but had a much lower unfavorable rating of 13 percent.

There's no doubt that this is a difficult district for the Democrats to win. The fact that Grant was not able to win this seat even in the Democratic landslide of 2006 is a testament to this fact.

But, amazingly, for as good as 2006 was for Democrats, 2008 could actually be better. Both Democratic polling and non-partisan polling indicate that the electorate is still significantly more disposed to vote Democratic than Republican in Congressional races this cycle. What's more, Democratic party committees have nearly twice the cash-on-hand as do GOP committees, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has close to 10 times the cash-on-hand that the National Republican Congressional Committee now holds, indicating that the Democrats could have significantly more room to help a Larry Grant than Republicans could to help a Bill Sali.

So given this potential environment, the fact that Sali is so remarkably unpopular -- which is unsurprising due to his extremely far right stances which even put him outside of the mainstream of this conservative district -- Grant really may have a shot at winning.

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