Talk many years ago about Jim Risch, a couple of decades or so back when the subject came up about what the then-state senator might one day run for, didn't center on governor. The word was that the job he'd really be interested in above other things was a seat in the U.S. Senate.
He may become one of the few Idahoans ever to do both. With his announcement today for the Senate, Risch becomes the presumptive Republican nominee and the immediate frontrunner for the job.
Idaho politics having recently gone through such a, ah, peculiar time this last month and a half, it's worth stepping back and taking stock here of what's not been upended (yet, at least) as well as what has.
The path to Risch's announcement was most immediately cleared by Senator Larry Craig's announcement, alongside his declaration of sticking in the Senate, that he would not run for re-election in 2008. Risch months ago had said he likely would run for the seat if Craig didn't, so his announcement is in line with that. But it also had two other effects, which he must realize. The state Republican establishment must realize it too, which helps explain the high-level on-site support Risch got today (from Senator Mike Crapo, former Governor Phil Batt and even the theoretically impartial state GOP Chair Kirk Sullivan). One is that it puts a big obstacle in the way of any decision-changing by Craig on the subject of running again. The other is that it may foreclose candidacies from other major figures in the party - the establishment has closed ranks and made its decision, and it will be hard to buck.
There'll probably be something in the way of small-scale candidacies, like that of elk farm owner Rex Rammell (who has indicated some delight at the idea of running against Risch). But we're guessing there won't be one; Sullivan's support for Risch seems a real indicator. Absent a major figure such as Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the nomination likely will go to Risch without much difficulty.