By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS and IDAHO MOUNTAIN EXPRESS
In a state known for its solid Republican base, the race for governor could yield a welcome surprise for Democrats.
U.S. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, the GOP candidate, is tied with Democrat contender Jerry Brady, according to a poll conducted Oct. 23 to Oct. 25 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., for KIVI-TV and the Idaho Statesman, which published it Sunday.
The survey showed Otter with 44 percent support to 43 percent for Brady. The survey's margin of error was four percentage points, meaning the numbers for both candidates could be off by that much in either direction and making the race too close to call.
Twelve percent of voters were undecided, while 2 percent said they'd choose third-party candidates, pollsters found.
Idaho hasn't had a Democrat in the governor's mansion—or in Congress—since 1994. Democrats are outnumbered 4-1 in the state Legislature, and President Bush won more than two-thirds of state ballots in 2004.
Some observers say the survey results indicate the minority party has narrowed the gap this year.
Republicans said they'd be working to prevent a Democratic victory in any of the Idaho races. "We'll be working very hard to spread those numbers between now and Election Day," said state GOP chairman Kirk Sullivan of the new poll.
Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said earlier this week that their own polls indicate Republican strength—evidenced by rally attendees.
"That's bolstered by what we've seen ... in communities we've been in," he said. "We're greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds everywhere."
Michael Ames, spokesman for the Brady campaign, said momentum is with the Democrats.
"Jerry Brady is carrying substantial momentum into this election," he said Thursday. "In the last week, he's earned four statewide (newspaper) endorsements and is expecting to sweep endorsements statewide."
National race analysts are revisiting their predictions.
The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan, online analysis of electoral politics, moved Idaho's gubernatorial race this week from "Leaning Republican" to the "Toss up" category.
Congressional Quarterly has also moved the race, from "Safe Republican" to "Republican favored," according to their Web site.
"National race analysts are paying attention, calling us a toss-up or giving Republicans a hair's breadth because of the state's recent political history," Ames said. "What progressive voters in Blaine County need to realize is that this is really the year to put a Democrat in office in Boise."
In other poll results, outgoing Gov. Jim Risch, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, led his Democratic rival Larry LaRocco 45 percent to 36 percent among those surveyed. Eighteen percent were undecided, according to the poll.
The survey's four-percentage-point margin of error in that race did not affect Risch's lead.
The race for superintendent of public instruction also was neck-and-neck, with Democrat Jana Jones backed by 40 percent of those polled while 37 percent supported Republican Tom Luna. Twenty-three percent were undecided, the poll showed. The four-percentage-point margin of error in that race erased the margin, making it too close to call.