A tip of the hat to Governor Brad Little. I have lived in Idaho for almost 40 years, and I have not watched a more effective State of The State Address. Lacking the retail political skills and charisma of his predecessor or the ability to connect with the people like a Cecil Andrus or the inherent conservative instincts of a Phil Batt, he maximized his strengths—incumbency, and minimized his weakness—being a Romney—Kasich—Liz Cheney, Republican, living in a Donald Trump State and political world.
The address launched his gubernatorial campaign with understated dignity. He is a proud Idahoan and loves his family. He focused his agenda by connecting family values to his policy. But most of all he alerted us to the fact that he will be campaigning against Joe Biden. He will be dismissive of the other Republican candidates—he doesn’t even have to mention their names and will remind Idaho citizens about how he has courageously stood up to the “boogeyman Joe”. Even before formally announcing his candidacy he has defined the conditions of the debate. When you have bravely taken on “the boogeyman” and you love your family, and you love teachers who cares about the rest of the issues? It is hard for citizens to care about cronyism and corruption that is deeply ingrained in our state government and the lobbying establishment swamp, when one can make the argument that we as a State are doing so well. We have placed ourselves in the position of supplicant and not creditor when 45% of our state’s budget comes from the Feds. The same positions that our schools, large hospital systems, and insurance carriers now find themselves in. Sooner or later the Piper will have to be paid. That pound of flesh will come due with interest and pain. True leader politicians understand the difference between near term tactics and long term strategies. This was Governor Otter’s greatest strength.
One other issue needs to be stated. I have been a critique of our Governor’s Covid response. It was more like Cuomo’s and several other “blue state” governors’ and not like a “Desantisland” (Florida), Texas or South Dakota response. To say that he never mandated masks when he transferred that responsibility onto the District Health Boards was anything but responsible or heroic. Did he send out an emergency order telling them not to execute mandates? To allow the State Board of Pharmacy and Medicine to define the use of off label drugs was draconian and was an affront to the doctor patient relationship. When one receives contributions from the IMA/IHA/ Big Pharma and IACI, when the large hospital systems have their feet on the necks of employed physicians, it becomes problematic when confronting these not too difficult issues. $10million in campaign coffers or being held at the ready in PACs is a lot when compared to a little more than $1million held in the accounts of the three Republican opponents.
But his advisors it must be conceded, “Swamp rats they” have done an excellent job. They are a battle tested crew and their abilities should be respected. Not ideologues but pragmatists. Their game plan is simple, genius and will be hard to beat. “Run the ball, take care of the ball, stop the run”—define the terms of debate, never allow the opposition to set the terms, stop their narrative—most of the time by not even recognizing their relevance. I wish the governor’s advisors were on our team. It was said of the great coach Bear Bryant “that he could take hisins and beat yourins, or he could take yourins and beat hisins”. The Governor’s team and coaching staff is that good.
On the other hand, our “team liberty” or “Idaho-Trumpians” is a different matter. Both Ed Humphreys and Ammon Bundy have done the most with what they were given. They continue to be team players and use every opportunity to claw and fight to stay in the game. Ed has a work ethic and platform and even the business experience to stay in the game a little longer, I hope. Ammon Bundy has a public relations team and media offensive that is the best in Idaho, and he just got it up and running. The teams advising these candidates should be congratulated and respected.
My favorite candidate out of the box was Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin. She has shown her political and moral bona fides over her entire career as both a wife and mother, a businesswoman, and as a politician. She needed to run a flawless asymmetrical campaign. From the start her advisors have placed her in situations where she was never going to succeed. Her educational panel needed to have legal guidance up front and needed to have the authority to convene from the Attorney General or the Legislature or the Governor. Without having legal counsel to advise them about open meeting issues and how to handle requests from the media—can a renegade committee even be required to respond to a FOIA request(?), she made the proceedings an embarrassment. BAD ADVICE. While playing to her base (I was part of her base), she overturned The Governor’s Executive Orders in his absence. He then made her look like he was the gentleman principle making the bad student stand in the corner, the moment he returned to the state. BAD ADVICE. The Trump endorsement’s timing looked like a “hail Mary” that was thrown in the first quarter. BAD ADVICE. Refusing to debate the other conservative candidates before Thanksgiving stating she would only debate when the Governor was on the stage, not only sabotaged her own campaign and made her appear to look entitled, but she made conservative chances in the primary almost look like Idaho playing Georgia—at least Idaho got $750,000 for the butt whipping, money conservative candidates could use. BAD ADVICE
And worst of all several of her advisors backing a motion at last week’s Republican State Committee proceedings that would require candidates running for office in our state to first pass muster with the local Committees before being allowed to run for office, looked like a final act of desperation. The Governor the day before the proceedings in an interview published by none other than Betsy Russell, opined that if he didn’t pass muster with the central Committees his name wouldn’t be allowed to be placed on the ballot even if he were an incumbent. Same with other incumbent candidates. This was seen for what it was—taking power away from “We the People” and giving it to political insiders. Tom Luna was also made to look like a hero of the people when he opposed this issue. These men and woman are friends of mine and I have contributed to their campaigns and causes. BAD IDEAS and BAD ADVICE. The Governor doesn’t even need the “A” team that he has at his disposal to win these fights. We have dug such a deep hole that I don’t even think “hisins could help ourins”.
A lot can happen in four months. The strength of the Governor’s team is not the Governor but his team of advisors and the assets that they may never need to deploy. It wouldn’t matter who was running, if our side continues to fumble and turn the ball over. Anyone on the RINO team could win.
I am a conservative therefore I am hopeful always no matter the odds. A great poet once penned: “Fight on my men Sir Andrew said a little I am hurt but yet not slain. I’ll but lie down and bleed a while and then I’ll rise to fight again”. Our side is enduring too many self-inflicted wounds. When fighting a worthy opponent, you can’t fumble too many times.
A Great Team wins every time. “A house divided…”