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Eye On Boise

New independent poll: Minnick leads Labrador by 23.3 points

Greg Strimple is a prominent Republican pollster and consultant who served as a senior adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, and who relocated to Boise fairly recently, where he's set up an office under the name GS Strategy Group downtown. Strimple hasn't returned my calls in the past week, but the reason I've been trying to reach him is because I obtained a portion of a statewide poll he conducted for the Idaho Hospital Association, that has some eye-catching results in the 1st Congressional District race along with interesting figures on Idaho's gubernatorial race. The hospital association initially was reluctant to say anything, but today, after Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey published the info on his blog this morning, the association's communications director, Darryl-lynn Oakes, told me, "Yes, we did a poll, and it's for internal planning purposes only." It was actually the second time the IHA had used Strimple for polling; the first was in February or March of this year.

Here's the news: The poll shows Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick leading GOP challenger Raul Labrador by 23.3 points, with Minnick at 52.1 percent and Labrador at 28.8 percent; while 1.9 percent chose "other" and 17.2 percent were undecided. That's more than twice the Minnick lead shown in Labrador's own poll, which he released a month ago showing Minnick with a 10-point lead.

The poll had a statewide sample of 400 people, and just 200 of those were in the 1st Congressional District, so that means the margin of error for that result is well above the plus or minus 4.9 percent for the poll as a whole. But it's still pretty interesting.

Also in the poll: GOP Gov. Butch Otter led his Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, by just 10.7 percent, a smaller lead than in other most recently published polls, suggesting that race is narrowing. In that race, 3.8 percent preferred "other" and 14 percent said they were undecided. The poll also showed Otter with just 48 percent favorability ratings, with 32.8 percent of respondents saying they viewed him unfavorably and 18 percent with no opinion.

The IHA did its polling because it's backing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot regarding bonding for hospitals; I haven't seen the portion of the poll regarding that measure, which is one of three bonding measures lawmakers approved this year for the November ballot. Oakes said, "We've done polling for the last couple years, and it could be on different things, just taking a poll on what people think about reform, what people think about community hospitals, just general polling." Including questions about the "political environment" - including how respondents view different political races - has "been standard," she said, "just to see how, when you look at different groups and divide them up - it's just one more mechanism in addition to geography and other demographics."

The poll also found that 56.3 percent of respondents had unfavorable views of Democratic President Barack Obama, with 33.8 percent favorable and 10 percent with no opinion. The poll was conducted on July 29.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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