- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2010

 

This may turn out to be a great election year for Republicans, but it hasn’t been a great year for the Republican establishment.

Another handpicked GOP candidate fell Tuesday, when Idaho Republicans rejected Vaughn Ward in favor of Raul Labrador in a key House primary race. A former Marine, Mr. Ward had the strong backing of the National Republican Campaign Committee and even an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

But he lost in the Tuesday primary in a five-candidate field, receiving 38.9 percent of the vote, to Mr. Labrador, a businessman and “tea party” favorite who garnered 47.6 percent. The Associated Press called the election for Mr. Labrador on Wednesday morning.


Hours later, the candidates appeared together at a Republican unity rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Boise. Mr. Labrador later told The Washington Times that he expected national Republicans to rally behind his campaign.

“I think I’ll get the backing of all Republicans,” said Mr. Labrador. “This is an important seat for Republicans if we want to regain the House.”

The rejection of the party-blessed candidate is part of an emerging trend in this midterm election, with states across the Mountain West in the forefront.

In Utah, three-term incumbent GOP Sen. Robert F. Bennett failed to make a primary runoff amid charges he had become a free-spending Washington insider. In Arizona, former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain faces a spirited primary challenge from ex-Rep. J.D. Hayworth. In the Colorado and Nevada Senate primaries, the Republican hopefuls widely seen as the official party’s choice are struggling to hold their leads against more conservative insurgent challengers.

In Idaho’s primary, the anti-establishment mood was complemented by what was widely seen as a gaffe-riddled campaign waged by Mr. Ward, once seen as one of the party’s prize recruits in one of its best chances for a pickup.

Despite a 6-to-1 fundraising edge, he was unable to surmount a series of missteps and self-inflicted wounds that left him constantly on the defensive. He was accused of plagiarizing parts of other candidates’ position papers on his website, which he later removed.

Mr. Ward also appeared in uniform in a campaign ad without including the disclaimer that the military does not endorse candidates. Then he incorrectly referred to Puerto Rico, where Mr. Labrador was born, as a “country.”

The day before the election, Republican Sen. Michael D. Crapo rebuked Mr. Ward for including a quote from the senator in a campaign e-mail, making it appear as though Mr. Crapo had endorsed him. Mr. Crapo has a policy against endorsing primary candidates.

The missteps were enough to lose him the endorsement of the Idaho Statesman. In a May 23 editorial, the newspaper called Mr. Ward “untrustworthy” and threw its support behind Mr. Labrador.

“Ward is a remarkable soldier. As a candidate, he is unendorseable,” said the editorial.

After Wednesday’s rally, Mr. Ward told reporters that he had thrown his support behind Mr. Labrador and took responsibility for his campaign’s implosion.

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