Republican Sen. Dirk Kempthorne has seen his name recognition and favorability rating statewide slip modestly since the year began despite announcing two weeks ago that he would leave Congress to try to become Idaho’s 30th governor.
A public opinion poll conducted by Idaho Consulting International in the week after Kempthorne’s mid-October announcement found the popular senator with 82 percent name recognition and a 63 percent favorability rating.
A similar poll conducted at the beginning of the year gave Kempthorne 94 percent name recognition and a 76 percent favorability rating.
Pollster Greg Smith speculated that the decline reflects the lull in voter interest midway between elections.
The poll, conducted for KIDO radio in Boise and the Associated Press, surveyed 406 registered voters statewide on Oct. 18 and Oct. 20-23. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
No viable Democrat has seriously considered challenging Kempthorne’s bid to succeed retiring GOP Gov. Phil Batt.
The poll showed that Republican Congressman Michael Crapo, who has never run a campaign outside southern and eastern Idaho, has surprisingly strong recognition statewide as he announced his plans to succeed Kempthorne after the survey was under way.
Crapo recorded 75 percent name recognition and a favorability rating of 51 percent in the statewide poll. A poll of just his congressional district at the beginning of the year gave him 98 percent name recognition and 82 percent favorability.
He has a significant head start over one of his potential Democratic challengers for the Senate. Former Democratic Party Chairman William Mauk had name recognition of only 30 percent and a favorability rating of just 8 percent.
Bannock County Commission Chairman Tom Katsilometes, the other Democrat seriously considering the Senate race, was not included in the poll.
Businessman Walt Minnick recorded only 35 percent name recognition after running for the U.S. Senate last year against incumbent Republican Larry Craig. Minnick has not indicated any interest in another race next year.
The only heated major race next year is likely to be for Crapo’s congressional seat. House Speaker Michael Simpson of Blackfoot, who has already announced for the Republican nomination for that seat, had 42 percent name recognition and 22 percent favorability in a poll of 231 registered voters in the district.