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If he doesn’t

UPDATE He has: Otter filed for re-election this (Friday) morning. What follows may still be food for thought, though.

This post may be rendered useless speculation tomorrow or next week, and odds are it will be. Can’t help posting it, though, just because it seems to shine some light on a political dog that didn’t bark in the night-time. [see edit at end of post]

That would be C.L. “Butch” Otter, the governor of Idaho who is widely expected to run for a second term. He has nowhere said he won’t, has indicated he will, and has six filing days left to do it. But when asked about his campaign, he has sounded reluctant to the point of diffidence. Yeah, odds are he will.

But it’s quite a contrast with the last cycle for the office, when Otter, just re-elected in 2004 to the U.S. House, made clear he wanted to run for governor. Hardly had his re-election to federal office been certified than he was on the run, the happy warrior doing everything he could to lock down at least the Republican nomination for governor. Then-Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who also wanted the job, was simply out-maneuvered, and in November 2005, after strongly suggested he was in the race, dropped out. It was the logical move: Otter had moved very aggressively to sew it up.

Compare that to this cycle: What looks very like an oh-I’ll-get-around-to-it sort of approach, almost an unwillingness. The contrast couldn’t be much greater.

So what if Otter – and the decision is singularly his – decided: To hell with this garbage everyone insists on putting me through? What if he decided not to file?

What a fun time we’d have. Well, some of us.

There are presently five filed candidates for governor, including two Republicans (Rex Rammell and Walt Bayes) and one Democrat (Keith Allred). If Otter were out, the Democratic field might not change much, but the Republican surely would.

On an emergency call-in, you might figure Lieutenant Governor Brad Little (who, interestingly, hasn’t filed for election yet) would run for governor; he has been a close ally of Otter’s since his appointment to LG. But there’s also developed an angry cadre of Republicans who have disapproved of the Otter approach, who consider not especially conservative at all (we get into some peculiar definition-making here, but so it goes). Otter seems likely not to get much more of an in-party challenge than Rammell, which is to say not much. But if Little shifted in? That might trigger someone a little more formidable.

Or might someone else get in? This could turn into a fierce rollercoaster for a week or so, as people file and withdraw and file as prospective offices come up. (Oregon just went through something like this, earlier this week.)

The upshot, sitting where we are, is that Idaho politics 2010 could become less predictable than it now seems to be.

See you back at the filings tomorrow . . .

EDIT The word “useful” in the first paragraph was a mis-type – it’s been changed to the originally intended “useless.”

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