Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Idaho's Next Governor May Be . . . A Democrat

The joke in Idaho is that if you want to run successfully for public office, you'd better have a "R" in your name somewhere.

But with Rex Rammell's announcement today that he plans to run for governor on the Republican ticket, combined with current Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's ambivalence about running for a second term, the "R" in Democrat just might be worth something.

Rammell is apparently running, according to KPVI (see link above) on what might seem to be a successful paltform: opposing higher taxes on gasoline and increased vehicle registration fees, which Otter supports and the state legislature famously opposed this spring. This may win him points with fiscal conservatives, but it's hard to see how the issue is going to support him in the race for governor, even if Otter doesn't run at all.

Rammell, running for Larry Craig's U.S. Senate seat last year, was trounced, despite a platform of fiscal conservatism. Former Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who rodered Rammell's elk shot when they escaped from his elk ranch near Yellowstone National Park, won the election hadily, with 371,749 votes, with his nearest opponent, Democrat Larry LaRocco, earning 219,903 votes. Rammell came in dead last among the candidates with 8,662 votes, falling behind another independent candidate -- who changed his first name to Pro-Life -- and Libertarian Kent Marmon.

More tellingly, even with his fiscally conservative platform, Rammell didn't win his home county of Madison, billed as the reddest county in the nation and a bastion of fiscal conservatism. Risch swept the county with 9,552 votes, trouncing LaRocco who earned 1,282 votes and easily beating the minor candidates including Rammell, who together earned only 2,037 votes in the county. Rammell nettted s paltry 197 votes in the county he calls home. His campaign RV was also vandalized in Rexburg. (I don't condone vandalism, obviously, it's just interesting to have it happen on his home turf.)

Idaho voters certainly vote the party. They also -- and this is to Rammell's detriment -- vote the individual within the party. So unless the Republicans in Idaho nominate a complete rube in the event Otter does not run again, Rammell's chances of winning are slim.

So why do I think a Democrat could win Idaho's governorship next time 'round? Well, I don't. Unless Rammell wins the Republican nomination. Then a Democratic governorship becomes a distinct possibility.

Also worrisome is that Rammell himself can't seem to make up his mind. Earilier this year, he announced plans to run against Rep. Mike Simpson, who won 71 percent of the vote last time he ran and is widely regarded as popular. Rammell probably realized his chances of unseating Simpson were poor, so he's now targeting the governorship.

Rammell obviously believes he's a Republican savior. He told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., that he himself sees a Democrat winning the top office if Otter decides to run again. But at the same time, in chiding Otter, Rammell says something he ought to be listening to himself: “I watched what Butch had done,” Rammell told the paper. “He reminded me of a guy that’s not going to run for re-election. Usually, if you want to be re-elected, you don’t go cause a bunch of trouble.”

My advice to Rammell would be: If you want to be elected, you don't go cause a bunch of trouble. And that's what most people see in him.

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