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Minnick Leads Labrador by 23 Points in GOP Poll

Despite a strong year for Republicans nationwide, Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick leads GOP challenger Raul Labrador by 23 points in a new poll conducted by Republican pollster Greg Strimple.

The freshman Democrat’s 52 percent to 29 percent lead in the poll, obtained by Roll Call, shows that even in one of the most conservative districts in the country — and in a year favorable to Republicans — Minnick appears well positioned to survive the storm.

The poll showed Minnick garnering support from 40 percent of respondents who identified themselves as conservative and 32 percent who said they usually vote Republican, as well as two-thirds who said they tend to vote for both parties evenly.

The statewide poll of 400 likely voters, conducted by Strimple’s Boise-based GS Strategy Group on behalf of the Idaho Hospital Association, was taken July 29 and had a 4.9-point margin of error. Details of the smaller sample testing the 1st district race were not available.

Labrador, a state Representative, won the GOP nomination in May over Vaughn Ward, the preferred candidate of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Ward received help from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and was among the first 10 candidates in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” recruitment and campaign organization program — proof that the party once saw this as a top-tier opportunity.

But several mistakes by Ward — including plagiarizing President Barack Obama’s keynote speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention — preceded his 9-point primary loss.

Ward served as Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) Nevada coordinator in 2008. Strimple, who also worked for McCain as a senior adviser, did not return phone messages left by Roll Call.

The survey showed a generally difficult climate for a Democratic candidate. Obama’s job approval rating is under 34 percent, and just 30 percent support the health care reform bill signed into law this year.

But Minnick votes along party lines less often than any other Member of Congress, according to the Washington Post database on voting habits. The freshman also helped his chances by raising $1.8 million this cycle, and he had more than $1.1 million left in the bank to spend as of June 30. Labrador had less than $70,000 at the end of June.

The NRCC left Minnick off its initial list of 41 districts where it plans to run $22 million in advertising. A spokesperson for the committee said Tuesday that the list was just a starting point and will be expanded in the weeks ahead.

But a source in the district said the high-profile Washington Senate race was driving up the price of advertising in the Spokane media market, which services the northern portion of Idaho’s 1st district. With Labrador well behind in the polls, the committee may not be willing to spend valuable resources on an unlikely pickup opportunity.

Even without the district, Republicans have plenty of opportunities around the country to expand the party’s representation in the House and perhaps even win back a majority.

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