Idaho 'Blue Dog' Democrat awash in campaign greenbacks

Joseph Weber, The Washington Times

Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, seeking to buck the odds and the national mood in his conservative Idaho district, was bolstered this week by a strong new fund-raising report and an upgrade in his re-election prospects by a leading political forecaster.

A prime target in a midterm election that many expect to produce major GOP gains, the first-term incumbent reported raising $410,000 during the April-to-June quarter, bringing his total for the 2010 midterm race to $1.9 million, according to his campaign. The campaign said that roughly $1.1 million of the money is still in the bank.

CQ Politics, citing in part the conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat’s fund-raising success, announced Thursday it was shifting the race from a “tossup” to “leaning Democrat.” Mr. Minnick’s opponent, immigration lawyer and state legislator Raul Labrador, upset highly touted Vaughn Ward, a favorite of the Republican Party establishment, in last month’s GOP primary.

The strong financial report is the latest boost for Mr. Minnick, who was elected with under 51 percent of the vote in 2008. The one poll taken to date in the race showed Mr. Labrador with a 12 percentage point lead, with 30 percent undecided, but many expect a closer contest in November.

Mr. Labrador has yet to release second-quarter numbers. He reported $173,712 for the first quarter, compared to $1.5 million for Mr. Minnick, according to federal filings.

Despite the national anti-incumbent mood, Mr. Minnick’s strategy of running as a fiscal conservative has garnered him key endorsements from the Tea Party Express and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as favorable ratings for a Democrat with the National Rifle Association and the anti-tax Club for Growth.

“Walt’s getting broad support, and he’s working hard,” Minnick spokesman John Foster said Thursday. “The numbers are a good indication of both.”

Mr. Labrador’s campaign has dismissed the Democrat’s high-profile endorsements, calling the chamber’s backing “more evidence of dysfunction coming from Washington, D.C.,” according to campaign coordinator China Veldhouse Gum. She said the national business group was trying to appear bipartisan by occasionally endorsing a Democrat.

“At a crucial time in our nation’s history, with our economic future in grave jeopardy, this organization decides to look out for its own political interests, rather than provide the bold leadership demanded by the times,” Mrs. Gum said.

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