Warning: Lots of numbers ahead.
But they're fascinating numbers. Bear with me.
A few snapshots of Idaho contributions in the presidential race, courtesy of the Federal Election Commission:
• Through June 30, Idahoans gave $375,586 to Barack Obama, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee. Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain received $228,938.
Statewide, Mitt Romney — the preferred candidate of most leading Idaho Republicans — raised more than Obama and McCain combined. But the fact remains that Obama has raised 64 percent more than McCain in Idaho, with four months left in the election.
• For the month of June, Obama raised $57,880 in Idaho. McCain raised $40,995. Even with Romney out of the picture as a presidential candidate, McCain trailed in fundraising in one of America's most Republican states.
• Obama's fund-raising edge is particularly pronounced in Boise. In Idaho zip codes with an "837" prefix (Boise and Garden City), Obama has raised $113,596 through the election cycle, nearly doubling McCain's take and surpassing even Romney.
• In the "836" zip codes — including heavily Republican Nampa, Meridian and Eagle — Obama has raised $43,156 to McCain's $29,947. Among GOP candidates, McCain trailed not only Romney but Ron Paul.
These totals do not tell the whole story. They reflect only donors who contributed $200 or more; campaigns do not have to itemize smaller contributions. Still, what do all the numbers mean?
Let's start with the obvious. It doesn't mean Obama will win Idaho, a state that has voted Republican in 10 successive presidential elections. I just can't see it happening.
For starters, there's no way we see a repeat of February — when Obama put 20 paid staffers on the ground, and appeared before 14,000 people in Boise three days before Super Tuesday. Obama will reopen an Idaho office within the next month, most likely in Boise, said TJ Thomson, chairman of Idaho Veterans for Obama and the only Obama staffer now assigned in Idaho. The campaign might add more staffing in Idaho, depending on polling.
But with only four electoral votes in play, I can't imagine the Obama campaign wagering a lot of resources on Idaho in the general election. It was shrewd for Obama to put resources into winning the Idaho Democratic caucuses when his rivals were phoning it in. The general election is a different game. The mainstream Idaho GOP — largely Romney supporters — will still close ranks and support McCain, whether Romney winds up on the ticket or not.
But the June numbers suggest Idaho Democrats remain energized by Obama, while Idaho Republicans remain unenthusiastic about McCain.
The numbers also hint at some of the divisions facing the Idaho GOP and new state party chairman Norm Semanko, who could not be reached for comment. In much of the Treasure Valley, donors favored Paul's protest candidacy to McCain's maverick campaign. This may be even more startling than Obama's fundraising success.
Hardcore Paul supporters may see no difference between a McCain presidency and an Obama presidency, says Boise State University political science professor John Freemuth. Will these Paul supporters stay home in November, hurting McCain and GOP candidates down the ticket? The answer may hold the key to Idaho's 2008 elections.
Presidential election years tend to be big years for Idaho Republican candidates, who benefit from a heavy GOP-friendly turnout, and 2008 may yet follow the model. But a Democratic candidate — particularly one running for Legislature in Boise or for Ada County commissioner — has to be encouraged by Obama's fundraising numbers. Republican candidates, meanwhile, have to be a little concerned about McCain.