Still crazy after all these years.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 10 2006 12:52 PM

Still Crazy After All These Years

The nuttiest congressional district in America keeps its reputation intact.

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The White House has long kept presidential and vice-presidential events to the party faithful. Cheney's Idaho visit posed a special problem—Idahoans don't register by party. To make sure that all 2,000 tickets for last night's event went to diehards, the local party used micro-targeting to develop a countywide screening list.

According to the conservative local paper, the Coeur d'Alene Press, a small businesswoman and lifelong independent named Melodee Watt who wanted to attend the Cheney event was turned down when her name was rejected by the party database. "I thought, 'What? I've never been arrested or anything,'" Watt said. Her crime: the Republican voter vault had her pegged as a possible Democrat.

The GOP county party chair staunchly defended using the voter vault to screen out independents: "It's our party and that's what we want to do." Watt told the paper she thought that as an undecided businesswoman, she was exactly the voter Republicans would want to target. "No wonder there's so much division in the country," she said. "When did it become us versus them?"

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It's hard to tell which is the greater sign of Republicans' desperation—that four days before an election, they had to send Dick Cheney to Idaho, or that they had to use sophisticated software to find anyone happy to see him. When I used to knock on doors for Democratic candidates in Idaho, we had our own system of micro-targeting. If a person came to the door in Birkenstocks or with a walker, there was a chance they might be a Democrat or at least undecided. Everyone else: Republican. If they came to the door with a twin-gauge or a Doberman, there was a good chance I was about to be micro-target practice.

The Cheney rally took place in an airplane hanger outside the small town of Hayden, the most conservative precinct in North Idaho. For years, Hayden was home to the infamous Aryan Nations compound of the late neo-Nazi evangelist, Richard Butler, until a hate-crimes suit by civil rights leaders put him out of business. I'm not sure how the GOP voter vault ranks the magazines Butler's gang of skinheads subscribe to, but most of them couldn't come to the Cheney rally—they're back in prison.

It's just as well Melodee Watt didn't get to hear the vice president, because he said nothing to sway an undecided voter's mind anyway. He attacked "Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi" and predicted a "clean Republican sweep in Idaho next Tuesday." The only thing Cheney failed to do to play to the base was to ditch Air Force Two and arrive instead by black helicopter.

Even the party faithful don't feel on safe ground anymore. A Republican in the crowd yelled to Cheney, "Take us with you!"

The day after Cheney's visit, two more polls came out showing Republicans in deeper trouble than ever. In the race for governor, Democrat Jerry Brady has opened up a five-point lead over Republican Congressman Butch Otter, 41 percent to 36 percent. In the First Congressional District, Democrat Larry Grant now leads Freaking Idiot Bill Sali, 38 percent to 34 percent.

Apart from the Democratic leads, what's most striking about both polls is that contrary to the usual pattern, the number of undecided voters keeps growing as the election approaches. An astonishing 25 percent haven't made up their mind in the congressional race, which makes Idahoans the most undecided voters in America.

If Democrats win in the reddest of red states, it will be because the undecided have nowhere else to go. In Idaho and across the country, the Republican Party has already let undecided voters know: They're not invited. ... 1:37 P.M. (link)

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