50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 43. Idaho

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

43. Idaho

Capital: Boise

Nickname: Gem State

Motto: Esto Perpetua

(Let It Be Perpetual)

About the State

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, Idaho was home to Native American tribes including the Nez Perce and Western Shoshone.  It was the last of the continental United States to be explored by people from the Old World, with the Lewis and Clark expedition entering the region in 1805.  As with many of the states around it, the majority of the early pioneers in the area were fur traders, though they did not establish any permanent settlements in Idaho. Like Washington, it was originally part of Oregon Country, which the United States and Britain agreed to joint occupancy of in the Treaty of 1818 that had ended the War of 1812, but by 1846 this had been rescinded and the 49th Parallel was used as the border between the two territories (now the boundary between Canada and the US).

Idaho was initially organised in the Oregon Territory but there was little settlement in the region, with people passing through Idaho en route to California after the discovery of gold there in 1849, or as they traversed the Oregon Trail.  In 1860, the mineral was discovered at Pierce – the first of several gold rushes in Idaho – and that increased migration to the region.  For the period of 1860 to 1866, Idaho produced 19% of all the gold in the United States.  After Oregon had become a state in 1859, Idaho was split between the Washington and Dakota Territories, before President Lincoln created the Idaho Territory in 1863 – at the time including parts of Montana and Wyoming, but by 1868 it had been reduced to its current size.

Settlers from different backgrounds arrived in Idaho during this time: Mormons established the first town there, Franklin, in 1860, thinking they were still in the Utah Territory and unaware that they had crossed the border; many Irish people, who left their homeland during the Potato Famine, headed to North America, with many ultimately settling in Idaho due to its favourable conditions for agricultural development; Basque people moved to the state in search of opportunity; and much of the current population can trace their heritage back to German and English immigrants to the area in the late 19th and early 20th century.  By 1890, the number of residents had increased to nearly 90,000 and, on July 3rd of that year, Idaho became the 43rd state of the Union.

Idaho is the 14th largest state in the US and its more than 1.5 million residents rank it 39th in terms of population.  The biggest sector in its economy is science and technology, which accounts for roughly one-quarter of the state’s total revenue.  Most notably, Micron Technology – the only manufacturer of Dynamic Random Access Memory chips in the nation – is based in Boise; and ON Semiconductor, a major innovator in that field, is headquartered in Pocatello.  Agriculture remains a major industry for Idaho, with it most famous output being potatoes, of which it produces one-third of the nation’s total each year.  There is some tourism in the state, with Shoshone Falls – dubbed the Niagara of the West – and ski resorts like Sun Valley being the most popular destinations.  In 1925, the entire town of American Falls was relocated to allow for the construction of a dam.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 4

2008 Result: McCain 61.5% Obama 36.1%

Latest Poll: Romney +36%

Idaho has been won by the Republican candidate in each of the last 11 Presidential election and, given Governor Romney has his largest lead in the polls there, that streak will continue this November.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is little of interest in the Congressional elections in Idaho this November.  No Senate seats are being contested, while the two incumbent Representatives in the House – both of whom are Republicans – are strongly favor to win another term.

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