Republican Senator Mike Crapo, and his political advisors, lost little time this past week in reading and reacting to First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s hiring of Idaho Statesman ace political reporter Dan Popkey as his press secretary.
Some pundits speculated the move indicated Labrador was contemplating a possible run for the United States Senate. The next Senate election is in two years with Senator Crapo presumably standing for re-election to a fourth term, but there has been additional speculation that Crapo might retire and stay in D.C. to earn some big bucks like his former Senate colleague, Dirk Kempthorne.
The message to Labrador was unequivocally clear: “If you think this is going to be an open seat you can just waltz into, you’re whistling past the graveyard.” The senior Idaho senator’s move is considered somewhat unusual in that his current colleague, Senator Jim Risch, is up for re-election this year. One’s colleague normally waits until the other’s race is finished before declaring his intentions.
Crapo wants there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he intends to serve a fourth term. His announcement specified unfinished work on addressing major national issues such as coming up with an acceptable formula for reducing the debt and federal spending with a plan that will put the nation’s fiscal house in order without itself becoming a catalyst for furthering economic doldrums.
Despite the Senator’s staunch conservative credentials, his willingness to include tax reform and even some possible “revenue-enhancers” as part of a solution package is one of the reasons Labrador may challenge the incumbent. Labrador of course has signed the Grover Norquist “no new taxes will I ever vote for” pledge, whereas Crapo, to his great credit, endorsed the Simpson/Bowles Commission approach to resolving the national debt crisis.
One presumes that Labrador can read the message. Whether it scares him off or not is another issue.
It does, however, draw additional attention to his hiring of Popkey. Normally, a congressional delegation in which all seats are filled by one party, would be expected to work in some degree of harmony.
Labrador’ hiring of Popkey, though, is going to cause both the congressman and his new press secretay some real problems for the simple reason that neither is going to be trusted. Harmony in the delegation will disappear and in particular Popkey is going to find out that the many mainstream Republicans from Idaho who have remained in D.C. are never going to include him on the inside.
Craig loyalists like his former chief of staff, Greg Casey, now the president of the powerful business political action group, BIPAC, or Sandy Patano, Craig’s talented former state office director, or former Idaho Senator Steve Symms, or Dirk Kempthorne’s former chief of staff, Phil Reberger, none of these incredibly well-connected “inside the beltway and inside Boise players” will ever, one can speculate, trust Popkey.
A story is already circulating through the delegation and the group of Idahoan ex-pats regarding Popkey having had his “ears pinned back” by a senior GOP figure who with relish explained to Dan that his request for a meeting or meal with the senior official was being rejected because Dan no longer had “Idaho Statesman” behind his name.
This is due not just to Popkey’s reporting over the years having bitten many of them, but also due to their suspicions about just where his new Boss intends to go.
Indeed, every time one runs the political calculus through the computer of the brain, no scenario comes out as “win/win” for both of them. Labrador’s weak excuse for hiring Popkey, when he spoke at a recent monthly “Idaho Breakfast in D.C.” meeting was almost laughable.
Reportedly, Labrador said they had become good friends and the friendship eventually led to his making Popkey an offer. Labrador even indicated he ran Popkey’s hiring by his entire family to get everyone’s take and their buy-in. Give me a break.
Senator Crapo and his well-oiled team, both office staff and the campaign, are not buying it either. They are going to keep a well-honed eye on Labrador and will not be sharing critical inside data that could possibly subsequently be used against them.
They have sent the proverbial shot over the bow in Labrador’s direction and one can bet it is but the first of many still to come.Share on Facebook