Dennis Mansfield, spokesman for state Rep. Raul Labrador, who won the 1st Congressional District Republican primary election Tuesday, said that his candidate prevailed because voters in the state believed in Labrador's message. He also said that social media – particularly YouTube – was key in Labrador’s win.
In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, Mansfield predicted that Labrador's race with Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick would be a completely different contest than the primary election. "It's not going to be what you saw in the primary. It's going to be an opportunity for gentlemen to come together and discuss the nuances of what their beliefs are," Mansfield said. "My belief is that they (voters) will have two great people to select from and the people of Idaho will win."
He also said that the race between Labrador and Minnick will be "fresh and invigorating" for Idahoans who want to discuss the direction of the state. Gone are the days, said Mansfield, of harsh campaign tactics. "The days of Idaho with the terrible Democratic and Republican attacks against each other, I believe, are over."
At a recent primary debate, Labrador was queried if he is a "retread of Bill Sali," the man Minnick ousted in 2008. Sali, who served in Congress for two years, suffered Republican defections from his camp to Minnick's over what some describe as his divisive personality while others attribute it to policy disagreements. Labrador, due to a few intra-party disputes in recent years, was labeled by Minnick spokesman John Foster Wednesday as someone with a "combative personality." Not so, said Mansfield, who claims Sali as a close friend. "Raul Labrador doesn't carry with him many of the things Bill had thrust on him at the time," he said, not citing specific issues. "Raul comes in with a clean slate."
Monday, before most ballots were cast in the primary election, Lucas Baumbach, a legislative candidate for the Idaho Senate, released a video that shows Vaughn Ward, Labrador's primary challenger, next to then-Sen. Barack Obama, using similar wording to Obama’s speech he gave during a Democratic national convention. Ward told reporters Wednesday that the speech was the work of a campaign staffer. The video, which has amassed more than 71,000 views on one YouTube channel and more than 10,000 on another, was devastating to Ward's campaign. The footage was picked up by several national media outlets, including Talking Points Memo, Salon, Huffington Post, and Politco, and Ward even received guff over the remarks from comedian Jay Leno Tuesday night.
Mansfield said that the popularity of the video shows the impact of social media on campaigns. "The single element that won this race - the pivotal element - that won this race for Raul Labrador in the primary, is social media," said Mansfield. His son, Collin, is in charge of much of the Labrador campaign's social media offering. The elder Mansfield believes that candidates across the country will look to Labrador's race with Ward and learn proper use of social media in campaigns. "I believe what we saw in Idaho this week will bear fruit across the nation," said Mansfield. Earlier in the campaign, the younger Mansfield posted a YouTube video of a remark Ward made at a debate in Post Falls in which he referred to Puerto Rico as a foreign nation. That video has more than 17,000 views and also made national headlines.
Labrador is set to square off with Minnick in the general election on Nov. 2.
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