How Republican Infighting Could Help Idaho Democrats...A Little

Jun 18, 2014

It’s political convention season in Idaho. Republicans held theirs last weekend and Democrats will meet this weekend. Randy Stapilus admits what happens at party conventions doesn’t typically reach directly into people’s lives. But he says the failure of the Republicans last weekend to agree on a party platform and elect a new chairman, could make a difference in the court of public opinion. For example, in November's general election.

Stapilus publishes the Ridenbaugh Press, a small publishing house that focuses on Northwest history, politics, and policy issues. He has written and edited numerous books and articles on Idaho politics. He says the recent Idaho Republican convention clearly showed the public what political wonks already knew, the state's GOP is deeply divided. Quarrels between the ultra-conservative and establishment wings of Idaho’s Republican Party resulted in the convention adjourning without completing any of its business.

“If you have people who are involved in the party who are important parts of the on the ground field army that helps candidates, if a lot of those people are simply refusing to work with each other, then you do have a real problem,” Stapilus says.  

He points out that the last time Idaho Republicans were seriously divided was at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s and Democrats leveraged that to win several elections. He says Republicans are more divided now than they were 25 years ago, but Idaho is also more solidly Republican. That will make it difficult for Democrats to capitalize on the GOP’s troubles come November’s elections.

“And as the choice becomes clearly and simply between Republicans over here, and Democrats over here, people on both sides more-or-less tend to come home despite aggravations along the way,” Stapilus says.

By "come home" he means most Republicans will vote for Republicans and Democrats will vote for Democrats, no matter what and Republicans on different sides may stop fighting long enough to work against the other party.

Stapilus adds Democrats will likely pick up a few votes they wouldn’t have gotten if the Republican machine were properly oiled and running smoothly. In some races, like the state schools’ superintendent, the vote could be close.

Find reporter Adam Cotterell on twitter @cotterelladam

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