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How The Presidential Race Has Played Out In Idaho Surprises One Expert

Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio
Thousands turned out to hear Bernie Sanders speak in Boise the day before the state's Democratic caucuses.

A week ago we woke up to the news that Bernie Sanders had trounced Hillary Clinton in Idaho’s Democratic Primary. Sanders got 78 percent and Clinton got 21 percent. Two weeks before that Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump handily in the state’s Republican primary with 45 percent of the vote to Trump’s 28 percent.  Now that the role of the average Idaho voter in nominating the candidates is over, we’re asking political scientists what surprised them about how the campaigns have played out in Idaho.

This election has been marked by surprises and Jaclyn Kettler says it’s been just as surprising for people who study politics for a living. Kettler teaches political science at Boise State and studies things like state politics, political parties and campaign finance. She says she guessed Cruz and Sanders would win in Idaho but was shocked by the margins of their victories.

Kettler has some guesses about what happened. While Clinton has strong support in some parts of the country, Kettler says she’s never been well-liked in Idaho. And while Trump has done surprisingly well with evangelical Christians, he hasn’t gained much support among Mormons. Kettler says that makes a difference in Idaho. And she says it’s significant that Sanders and Cruz both came to Idaho. Clinton and Trump didn’t.

“Trump didn’t pay much attention to Idaho besides like one tweet,” she says. “So, it’s possible that his supporters just didn’t get out to vote.”

But Kettler says none of that really explains why Cruz and Sanders exceeded expectations in Idaho. She says nobody truly understands what makes a candidate viable or not. And this election, she says, puts a new spin on that old question.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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