How tough is it for a moderate Democrat to win a major office in Idaho?

Just about impossible – when you look at the demographic numbers standing against that type of candidate.

And a liberal Democrat would have even a harder hill to climb.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers gleaned from a recent Idaho Politics Weekly survey by Dan Jones & Associates – the West’s premier pollster.

  • 37 percent of Idahoans self-identify as Republicans.

  • Only 16 percent say they are Democrats.

  • 35 percent say they belong to no political party, they are unaffiliated, or independents.

  • 11 percent say they belong to a third party, like Libertarian or Constitutional or Green.

Now, it falls to reason that if a Democratic candidate could get the lion’s share of the independent vote, and pick up some Green Party votes, then he or she may have a chance to win.

But that’s not likely.

Why?

Because so many independents – the largest political group -- still consider themselves conservatives.

Take a look at this:

  • 24 percent of Idahoans say they are “very conservative” politically.

  • And 30 percent say they are “somewhat conservative.”

That is 54 percent of the population saying they are conservatives in some manner.

Now you see a Democratic candidate’s problem.

He starts out of the gate in a statewide race as not only a party minority, but even worse as a political philosophy minority.

He actually has to convince some conservative Idahoans to cast a vote for him.

Even if he gets ALL of the “moderate,” “somewhat liberal,” and “very liberal” voters, he is still behind by four percentage points.

And who would naturally be the most disinterested, disheartened voters?

Members of those very three philosophical groups – who haven’t seen a statewide win for someone like them for years in Idaho.

According to Jones’ last poll:

  • Just 21 percent of Idahoans say they are “moderate” in political philosophy.

  • 15 percent say they are “liberal.”

  • And only 6 percent say they are “very liberal.”

  • 3 percent preferred not to answer that question.

If a Democratic candidate ran saying he was a “moderate,” that probably wouldn’t hurt him much with his base.

But if he ran saying he was a “conservative” Democrat – even if he could define what that means (against abortion or really pro-gun?), that would likely cost him votes among his own party and philosophical base – while not getting him much from the GOP and conservative side.

These are tough numbers to overcome for Idaho Democrats/moderates or liberals.

No doubt it would take a really bad GOP conservative candidate to even give a Democrat a shot at a statewide race.

Or a scandal on the Republican candidate’s side just before the general election, but after he won the GOP nomination.

This analysis used the latest Jones’ IPW poll, conducted May 4-18 of 649 adults. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.85 percent.