U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco, a former two-term Idaho congressman, released some favorable poll results today, offering a sunny view of his Democratic bid for the Senate seat now held by Larry Craig and his chances against current GOP Lt. Gov. Jim Risch. Though Risch is one of Idaho’s longest-serving politicians and his seven months as governor – he stepped up after then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne became Secretary of the Interior – raised his profile statewide, LaRocco’s pollster reported, “Jim Risch is not as strong as conventional wisdom dictates.” Democratic Pollster Celinda Lake wrote that when voters were asked to rate their feelings toward Risch and LaRocco on a scale of 1 to 100, Risch scored 56, while LaRocco was at 57. “The supposed Republican front-runner has no advantage,” Lake wrote.
She also reported that Idahoans are “in the mood for change,” with 59 percent saying things in the United States are “pretty seriously off on the wrong track;” and that “the Republican brand is in decline and a generic Democrat defeats a generic Republican.” She said 42 percent of those surveyed would vote for the Democrat in a hypothetical Senate race, 36 percent for the Republican, and 21 percent undecided. “In sum, Idaho is not as ‘red’ as the Republicans would like you to believe,” Lake wrote. “This state is trending purple. Now is the time to target this open Senate seat.”
Interestingly, some of Lake’s language in the Dec. 13, 2007 polling analysis mirrors that used by Risch in a frantic-sounding fundraising letter that surfaced about a week ago, in which Risch wrote:
Dear Fellow Conservative,
As the Republican Lt. Governor of Idaho, I’m asking for your immediate help in my pivotal campaign for U.S. Senate. You see, for the last several months the national Democrat Party has been targeting Idaho’s U.S. Senate race. They think that because Senator Larry Craig is retiring in 2008, they can funnel enough money from left-wing donors in Democrat bastions like New York City and Hollywood to steal this U.S. Senate seat from the GOP. That’s right – now that the national media is focused on Idaho – I have no doubt that the Democrat Party is planning an all-out blitz to send several millions of dollars straight to Idaho. And sadly, I’m afraid that with the Republican “brand” in D.C. facing an identity crisis and decline in public support, this battleground U.S. Senate seat could easily be lost.
That’s just the start of a letter that goes on for four pages to emphasize how donations are “desperately needed.” Risch, of course, defeated LaRocco 58-39 in the lieutenant governor race just last year. One might think he’d have little to fear in a state that’s now known for electing Republicans to every statewide and congressional office it has. But that’s not the message of his letter, which warns, “I cannot run the risk of letting liberal money from New York and Hollywood buy this U.S. Senate seat for the Democrat Party. But that’s exactly what may happen if conservatives like you don’t step up to the plate to help me right away.”