Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Democrats gear up for raucus caucus


Michael Ames

Michael Ames was the communications director and press secretary for the 2006 Brady for Idaho campaign.


Idaho Democrats are used to feeling a bit whipped. We take a defensive stance and, like vegetarians at a pig roast, realize that our viewpoint is sort of irrelevant.

This loser mindset creates some bad habits, the worst of which is apathy. After stunning losses last year, when Idaho Republicans won their biggest gains since 1928, Gem State donkeys could be forgiven a spell of navel gazing.

But that was then, and this is now. This winter, Idaho Democrats have something exciting to rally around: an early caucus.

On Feb. 5, Idaho will join 20 other states holding early caucuses or primaries as part of Super-Duper Tuesday. The delegates we nominate are worth every bit as much as delegates from California and New Jersey. It's a numbers game and the votes of Idaho Democrats actually mean something.

Idaho's caucus is unique in that it is open to voters of any party. Blaine County voters who care a whiff about where our country is headed should prepare now to join the raucous caucus, a distinctly American event.

Given our state's lopsided political landscape, it surprised many when Barack Obama opened a campaign office in Boise on Nov. 1, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so in a generation. Obama is paying attention to Idaho Democrats. Now it's up to us to return the favor.

Obama has led in every mock caucus and in the only professional polling completed in Idaho thus far. A few reasons why:

1. Hillary is a time bomb. In such an overwhelmingly Republican state, anti-Hillary sentiment runs high. Few public figures elicit hatred like Hillary Clinton. For a variety of reasons (her marriage, her gender and her beliefs, for starters), the woman is a lightning rod for conservative rage.

The biggest secret in the 2008 election is why Republicans, including George W. Bush himself, have publicly stated approval of Clinton. It's a tactical move, "strategery" for the GOP's Christmas wishes: Hillary wrapped in a red bow.

She is, in Obama's words, "the fight they are comfortable having." The mud she claims Obama and John Edwards have slung her way is an exfoliating facial mask in comparison with what Fox News and AM Radio is stockpiling.

Drive south out of the valley and browse the AM dial. Once nominated, it will be all KABC—Anybody But Clinton. Most Republicans are more excited about beating her than about nominating their own geezer. The ability of the Right to destroy her cannot be underestimated.

2. Hillary hurts Idaho Dems. Progressive Idahoans are right to worry about a Hillary nomination and the damage her name could do in Idaho.

This is one reason why Wendy Jaquet, House Minority Leader and our district representative, will officially be endorsing Obama in the coming days.

"I think people in Idaho are either for or against Hillary. There is no middle," Jaquet said this week. Obama has broader appeal, she thinks, and can attract more conservative voters looking for national change.

In this very blue county in our deeply red state, we have the opportunity to organize and agree, to gather our energies and numbers around a single candidate for change.

3. Obama is organizing in Idaho ... tonight. The Obama Idaho campaign is holding a meeting at Ketchum's Roosevelt Tavern and Grill at 6 p.m. tonight. Head on over, ask some questions, and gear up for Idaho's raucous caucus.

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