New preferences

Four years ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was all the rage among Idaho Republicans. It didn’t matter much, since by the time Idaho Republicans got to vote in the primary Romney had dropped out and John McCain had the nomination in hand. But Romney was the clear early favorite among Idaho Republicans, at the upper reaches of elective office and party structure, and well down below.

This year, not so much – or rather, things are a lot more complicated.

For one thing, Idaho Republicans’ presidential preferences – at the nomination stages – will matter a lot more in 2012, since the party has chosen to move (as the Democrats did a while back) to an earlier caucus, probably March 6. That means the party’s activists actually will play a meaningful role in the nomination process.

And there are indicators to what that could mean.

Romney again has the support of much of Idaho’s Republican leadership. His Idaho co-chairs are Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and U.S. Senator Jim Risch and the steering committee (Representative Mike Simpson, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Luna, State Controller Donna Jones, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke and House Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts) could hardly be improved on as a measure of support from Idaho Republican elected officials.

But what about voter support? What about the activists who outnumber the leadership?

The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans have been running a straw poll in the area – picking up votes mostly at a regional fair but in other locations as well – and have announced results, which suggest different preferences among Republican voters.

First place went to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who wasn’t even yet in the race when many of the votes were cast, with 123, or about a quarter of the total. Second place went to Texas Representative Ron Paul with 55 votes, and third to Sarah Palin (who’s not in the race) with 54.

And Romney? Tied for fourth (with Representative Michelle Bachman) at 39 votes.

We’ve been seeing pieces of evidence for some time that there are two Idaho Republican parties. Add these little factoids to the list.

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