The polls that have been released publicly have shown Gov. Butch Otter way ahead of Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff.
But the actions of the Republican Governor’s Association in running a series of attack ads with questionable veracity showed that private polls were saying something different. Now a new poll by a Democratic polling group released this week shows the closer race that the RGA actions suggested.
Otter leads with 39% to 35% for Balukoff in the poll that was done from Oct. 9 to Oct 12. John Bujak, Steve Pankey, Jill Humble and Pro Life combine for 12%, and 14% of voters are undecided.
Public Policy Polling out of North Carolina suggests the support right now for the minor candidates is a reflection of Otter's unpopularity. Only 36% of voters approve of the job he's doing compared to 49% who disapprove. The poll says even Republicans are pretty tepid in their feelings about him ,with 54% approving and 27% disapproving, the pollsters said in their release.
But the voters supporting the minor candidates say they would pick Otter over Balukoff 65 percent to 26 percent if they had to choose between the two, which is enough to push Otter's lead to 47 percent to 38 percent in a head-to-head contest.
That’s what many traditionally Republican voters have told me. It is the internal struggle many conservative voters face in the next three weeks.
But as 2006 showed, when Democrat Jerry Brady was shown to be leading with two weeks to go, and as 1994 showed, when Democrat Larry Echohawk’s lead over Phil Batt faded, Republicans in Idaho generally return to the fold on Election Day.
Idaho undecideds, Public Polling says, voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 71 percent to 16 percent in 2012, suggesting that if they eventually choose based on party loyalty, Otter could ultimately win by double digits.
“Butch Otter is one of the least popular Governors in the country,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But there may not be a state where it’s harder for Democrats to win than Idaho.”
But then again, Balukoff voted for Romney too and Otter’s efforts to paint him as an Obama Democrat seems like a stretch.
Public Polling also shows Democrats within striking distance in other Idaho races. Republican Lawerence Denney leads Holli Woodings 38 percent to 35 for Secretary of State, and Republican Sherri Ybarra leads Democrat Jana Jones just 41 percent to 38 percent for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The rest of the Idaho ballot finds incumbent Republicans leading by double digits, according to Public Polling. Jim Risch is up 50 percent to 32 percent on Nels Mitchell for the Senate; Brad Little leads Bert Marley 42 percent 25 percent for lieutenant governor; and Ron Crane leads Deborah Silver 46 percent to 32 percent for treasurer. Lawrence Wasden is up 52 percent to 26 percent over Bruce Bistline for attorney general.
Public Policy said it surveyed 522 likely voters, with a margin of error plus or minus 4.3%. Eight out of 10 were interviewed for the poll over the phone and 20% via the Internet, to reach respondents who don’t have landline telephones.