My assignment on Election Day was to write the story on how the presidential election outcome would affect Idaho. That required me to prepare for the possible reelection of President Obama, the election of Mitt Romney and the possibility we wouldn’t know by deadline.
All of the Republicans I interviewed said the major impact of Romney’s election would be his close ties to Idaho and to Idahoans who could play a major role in his administration.
“There is no area where Idaho won’t have a seat at the table,” one prominent Republican said, echoing the views of many.
So it was a saddened group of Republicans who watched the returns at the Riverside Hotel late Tuesday, mourning what could have been. They said, essentially, that Idaho won’t have a seat at any of the tables of executive power.
But, of course, they all looked at it from the view of their Idaho GOP power base.
Looked at another way, Idaho is not so powerless.
Two Idahoans have very prominent seats at the table after Obama’s Tuesday win.
Jim Messina, who grew up in Boise and graduated from Boise High School, led Obama’s re-election campaign, which observers said used a mix of behavioral science and technology to identify and mobilize a new crop of voters to Obama’s coalition.
Messina kept alive a victory streak that started with the campaign for Missoula Mayor Dan Kemmis in 1993. The sky seems to be the limit for Messina.
Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff is Bruce Reed. He grew up in Coeur d’ Alene, the son of environmental attorney Scott Reed and former Democratic State Sen. Mary Lou Reed. Reed was credited by former President Bill Clinton as co-author of Clinton’s powerful convention speech that energized Democratic activists.
That’s not all. Tom Tidwell, who attended Boise’s Capital High, is head of the U.S. Forest Service.
Jon Jarvis, who used to be the superintendent of Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, now runs the National Park Service.
And how about former Idaho State Sen. John Stocks? He’s the executive director of the National Education Association, which helped fund and defeat Propositions 1, 2 and 3.
And it’s not like Idaho doesn’t have Republicans in positions of power. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch each expanded their clout in the Senate.
Crapo likely moves up to the No. 2 GOP spot on the Finance Committee that, among other roles, writes tax policy. Risch did the same on the Foreign Relations Committee, a remarkable rise for a first-term senator.
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson keeps his post as chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Interior, the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. He remains close to House Speaker John Boehner and is an ideal place to protect Idaho’s interests as Congress looks at deep cuts to federal programs.
Finally, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador told Republican leaders two years ago that they needed to change the way they approached the growing Hispanic community or it would cost them. He now looks like a sage and has a chance to become one of the major Hispanic voices in a Republican Party that now knows how much they need those voices.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484