Bill Sali and Larry Grant have yet to engage one another in person, but all evidence is that the encounter should be lively, judging by how the two snipe at one another over relatively small news items. Take last week's poll by Republican pollster Greg Smith. When Smith, who has a long history as an Idaho pollster, came up with numbers showing Sali, the Republican, trailing Grant, the Democrat, both sides pounced.
Sali's camp was quick to deride Smith's numbers as insubstantial and innaccurate, while Grant's campaign was quick to announce that the poll reflected his campaign's momentum.
Neither side, of course, has much of a leg to stand on.
For Sali's part, their campaign took a shot directly at Smith.
"Greg Smith even finds himself in disagreement with himself. His last poll in July was wildly different from his current findings," read the statement from Jesseca Sali, campaign manager for her father.
The poll was conducted Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 among 300 randomly selected and statistically representative Idahoans of voting age, who said they were either "very" or "somewhat likely" to vote in the November 2006 general election, Smith said.
But, Sali said, Smith's numbers were so shaky that KTVB Channel 7, which commissioned the poll, declined to use them.
Smith said he and KTVB had "irreconcilable business differences," and said he was disappointed that "a fellow conservative" would say such things.
"But, politics is certainly a full contact sport, and in life people respond in interesting ways under duress," Smith said.
As for Grant, the poll results, he said, were evidence of his surging popularity with voters.
Not so much: Although Smith's poll did indeed put Grant ahead of Sali, it wasn't through any gains he'd made with the electorate. In fact, Grant lost traction, going from 25 percent favorable in a July poll to just 22 percent this time around. Grant's surge came from a fading Sali favorable.