An Aug. 17 article misreported the number of people who attended an Idaho fundraiser with Teresa Heinz Kerry last month. It was 400. (Published 8/18/04)
Idaho voted 67.2 percent for George W. Bush in 2000 and is sometimes called the most Republican state in the country, but idyllic Blaine County, where John F. Kerry is spending a few quiet days this week, is very much up for grabs, even if all that is at stake is pride.
Four years ago, this blue enclave in the reddest of red states was the only one of Idaho's 44 counties to vote for Al Gore, who won here by 220 votes. Bill Clinton narrowly won Blaine in 1992 and 1996, despite losing the state by large margins both times.
Maurice Charlat, who leads the Blaine County Republicans, acknowledges that he has an uphill battle to deliver Bush the one county that denied him a clean sweep: "Almost straight up, like taking a rocket from Cape Canaveral."
Building support here for GOP candidates can be so frustrating that Charlat likens his job to "hitting yourself in the head with a hammer." But, he declared, this could be the year "we finally vote with the rest of the state."
His Democratic rival, Betty Murphy, said that is wishful thinking but acknowledged that the pressure is on to pull out another Democratic victory. Kerry "has a home here, and there's a bit of extra responsibility when it could be the only county he wins, so we are working hard," she said.
In addition to being the most liberal, Blaine is also the wealthiest county in Idaho and boasts a large number of outsiders who own second homes, including Teresa Heinz Kerry, who built a Ketchum retreat with her first husband in 1987. She and Sen. H. John Heinz III (R-Pa.), who died in a plane crash in 1991, imported a 15th-century English barn in 1987 and had it rebuilt as the core of their $4.9 million home.
Ketchum and neighboring Sun Valley make up one of the nation's toniest ski communities, and since the 1930s they have been a hot spot for Hollywood types such as Lucille Ball, Clark Gable and, more recently, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. Ketchum is perhaps best known as a favorite destination of Ernest Hemingway, who took his own life here in 1961 and is buried in the city cemetery.
In the summer, attractions include visiting virtuosos from symphonies and nightly figure-skating shows (Russian Alexei Yagudin, the 2002 Olympic gold medalist, performed here this week).
"It certainly doesn't feel like the rest of Idaho. We're not outnumbered here," said Mark Dettmer, 48, a Democrat from Boise who was vacationing in Ketchum.
For visitors such as Kerry who delight in outdoor sports including hiking, bicycling and snowboarding, the area is a veritable playground. After flying in from Oregon on Saturday, ending more than two weeks of nonstop campaigning, Kerry immediately went for a bike ride, and he did so again Sunday and Monday.
The Kerrys have created a mini-stir in Ketchum by eating most of their meals downtown -- an immaculate string of upscale boutiques, steakhouses and beauty salons. Murphy said she hopes their visits will help deliver the county in November as residents realize the publicity is good for the local economy.
Teresa Heinz Kerry attended a campaign fundraiser here last month that attracted 4,000 people. A benefit concert by singer Carole King on Tuesday, sold out days ago.
But the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper ran an editorial last month, complaining about the lack of public events held by the campaign. "This was no way to treat the neighbors," it said. The paper said that after Kerry's last visit in March some Democrats felt snubbed when he failed to stop by a reception they hosted in a local bar.
While Murphy is counting on the visits as a plus, Charlat said he has heard grumblings among locals about the inconvenience of closed roads when Kerry drives around and the entourage of Secret Service and journalists tracking his every move.
-- Jonathan Finer