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Eye On Boise

AdWatch: Crapo’s federal-debt ad is first of campaign season in Idaho

Here's my full AdWatch story from

By Betsy Z. Russell

“This is Idaho,” proclaims Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s new political campaign commercial, as it touts his advocacy for balancing the federal budget and reining in the national debt.

The ad is running in the Spokane market as well as statewide in Idaho; Crapo, who is seeking a fourth six-year term in the Senate, is the first Idaho candidate this year to launch a statewide campaign commercial. He’s facing Democratic challenger Jerry Sturgill and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz in November.

“Sen. Crapo is a nationally recognized leader in the fight to fix our federal deficit and the national debt,” said Todd Cranney, a senior advisor with Crapo’s campaign. “More ads are possible, and will deal with a variety of Idaho and national issues.”

Jim Weatherby, professor emeritus at Boise State University and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, said the debt is “a good choice” for Crapo’s opening salvo in the campaign, “in that this issue just isn’t being discussed. And it helps to legitimize his claim that he’s leading this battle.”

Weatherby noted that neither major party’s presidential candidate has been focusing on the issue.

The claims in the ad are largely accurate. “He’s been in the forefront – I don’t know whether he is leading the fight or not, but that’s a slight overstatement,” Weatherby said. “Politicians always overstate their role.”

Cranney noted that in addition to his work on the Bowles-Simpson Commission in 2010 that proposed a far-reaching plan to reduce the national debt, cut spending, and reform the tax system and entitlements, and the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators that offered a similar proposal in 2011, Crapo is a senior member of the Senate Budget and Finance committees, where he’s continued to push for spending cuts and tax reform.

Maya MacGuineas, head of theCampaign to Fix the Debt and president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said, “The work he’s put into tax reform is incredibly, incredibly impressive.” She added, “He’s an influential member.”

Weatherby said the ad is an appealing one. “He has credibility on this issue – he’s walked the walk, he’s done the heavy work of trying to come up with a balanced budget that cut spending and raised taxes, for which he’s been severely criticized, often by the right wing of his own party.”

The ad also strikes a folksy tone, showing a casually dressed Crapo in Idaho, differentiating him from the “Washington insiders” he decries. But Crapo has served in the Senate for the past 18 years, and served three terms in the U.S. House before that. Weatherby noted that numerous groups and individuals who could be described as “Washington insiders” are among the many contributors to Crapo’s campaign; he’s raised millions for his re-election campaign, and had $5.1 million in cash on hand at the close of the last reporting period.

Still, Weatherby said, “It’s smart politics for a senator who’s been there that long to still try to run as an outsider.”

Cranney said the ad is referring to “members of the other political party as well as entrenched special interests who have become guardians of the status quo in government spending practices.”

The scenic view of the Snake River Canyon that’s shown as Crapo proclaims “This is Idaho” is near where a Hollywood stuntman plans to try, this weekend, to recreate Evel Knievel’s famous but unsuccessful 1974 attempt to jump the canyon on a jet-powered motorcycle.

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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