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Posts published in “Idaho column”

Better water

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Water is critical everywhere, but Idaho notices more than most when the water levels are off.

And things go better when they’re not.

Idahoans see it in the stream levels, and in so much else of what they do. In the populous areas of southern Idaho, when water levels are low, people go for each other’s throats – not in a physically literal sense anymore (although there is some history of that), but in the courts, and in business. Low water levels determine whether a farm or an industrial business gets the water to survive, to stay in business. Courts, and the state government, determine who gets water and who goes parched.

The effects ripple. A good water year can mean overall prosperity and a sense of community. Poor water years can tear at the social fabric.

So if, in some ways, Idaho has a little more upbeat feel this year than last, you can find some of the reason as I do in reviewing the water levels.

I check them every week, starting with a web page updated daily by the National Resources Conservation Service, called “Snotel narrative.” (You can see it at their site.) The data are technical, and the lines I follow are described this way: “The Accumulated Precipitation Percent of Average represents the total precipitation (beginning October 1st) found at selected SNOTEL sites in or near the basin compared to the Average value for those sites on this day.”

It gives you a feel for how the snowpack, which as the year goes on will dictate much of the water flow, is developing compared to the historical norms, in all the basins in Idaho. A reading of 100 is normal; higher is more water, lower is less. Great variations can mean flood or drought.

Five years ago, for example, the Northern Panhandle area was at 106 – just a bit above normal. The Salmon basin was at 98, the Boise at 106, the Little Wood 103, the Henry’s Fork 96, the Bear River 78 – the lowest in the state. So in 2011, the state overall was running just about average.

Last year at this point, here were the figures for those same basins: the Northern Panhandle 97, the Salmon basin 87, the Boise at 89, the Little Wood 70, the Henry’s Fork 76, the Bear River 71. The lowest last year at this time was the Medicine Lodge and Camas Creek area (in eastern Idaho) at just 61 – a sign of a very tough water year to come. In fact, the whole state was running short of water, and the legal battles and economic tensions were running high.

This year, things have changed.

A week ago, here is what the comparable reading show: the Northern Panhandle 121, the Salmon basin 112, the Boise at 114, the Little Wood 105, the Henry’s Fork 97 (tied for lowest in the state, with the Snake River above the Palisades Dam), the Bear River 100.

Quite an improvement.

The U.S. Geological Survey last week released a series of drought area maps covering the period up through March. Idaho’s – which last year was piled in with eerie shares of yellow, orange and even dark red markers of strong drought warnings – this year is producing only a few widely-scattered dabs of lightest-level drought warnings.

Don’t be surprised if some of the tensions around the state don’t ease off just a little as the months ahead progress. Plentiful water makes for some happy civic medicine.

State primary reflections

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When the Idaho Legislature adjourned on the early side this year, the common comment was that they had to get home to deal with the primary elections coming up.

Well, some of them did. About a third of Idaho’s legislators do face primary contests, and since the bulk of the state is one-party territory, that’s where challenges will occur if they’re going to at all. Those elections will nonetheless be worth a close watch for indicators for how Idaho is changing. If it is.

Nearly all of the legislative primary contests are on the Republican side – I counted just three on the Democratic, and just one of those involves an incumbent (Representative John McCrostie of Garden City). Of the Republican contests, some seem likely to split into the “insurgent against establishment” mold, though not all do. Some may become quite personal.

A few challengers jump out because they’ve been visible before. Marvin “Chick” Heileson of Idaho Falls twice ran hard against U.S. Representative Mike Simpson but this year localizes his sights to the Idaho Legislature, and specifically to veteran Dell Raybould of Rexburg. Heileson was a hard-charging Tea Party candidate against Simpson, with support from Club for Growth and an issue base focused on national subjects. What his state-level campaign against Raybould will look like is unclear.

But we may have a better idea of the campaign to come over in Boise, where Rod Beck is running again. Beck, who served several terms in the state Senate and has run unsuccessfully for higher office and the legislature since, this year emerged as state chair for the Donald Trump presidential campaign. He is challenging a very different kind of person, second-term House member Patrick McDonald. McDonald, a former U.S. marshal for Idaho with a career in law enforcement, has been a generally uncontroversial and low-key representative. But Beck (whose projects have included closing the Republican primary to party members only) has a way of stirring things up; watch for some headlines over in District 15.

That however will be one of the few cases of primary contest excitement in the Boise area. Most of the primary contests are located in more rural reaches of the state.

The most significant could be in the far north, in District 1 – up by the Canadian border. There, the new (as of this session) co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Shawn Keough, is being challenged again in the primary, this time by Glenn Rohrer. Keough has been challenged regularly from the activist right, four times before this year in the last decade. She won the first first three by lopsided margins, with two-thirds of the vote or better. In 2014, however, she was down to 53.8% of the vote, and Rohrer has started early and energetically this time.

That may be the contest which sets the political tone, more than any other, for this year’s Idaho primaries. Both U.S. House seats have primary challenges to the incumbents, but these were late-emerging and have the look of longshots. There is also, actually, a primary contest between two would-be standard bearers for the Constitution Party (one of those being the frequent contender Pro-Life from Letha), but that’s not likely to impact the state a great deal.

This is a season of intense national discussion and dissension over what the two national parties are all about. For a sense of where Idaho politics plays into that, and may be going, the legislative races may be as good a place to look as any.

Where safety lies

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Some weeks ago I chatted with several leading Idaho Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton for president. Asked why they preferred the former secretary of state over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the core of the answer was that Sanders would be too risky a nominee.

Meaning: He’s viewed as a left-wing extremist, and the “socialist” label would be death in, at least, Idaho. Clinton, in relative terms, was the more centrist and therefore “safer” choice. So far as I can tell, this was the prevailing view across most of the Idaho Democratic leadership.

Nationally, the odds favor Clinton winning the nomination over Sanders. But in the light of last week’s caucuses let’s revisit the subject of Sanders and Idaho. In those meetings, where turnout busted historical records, Sanders demolished Clinton, with 78 percent of the vote (and he won every county save for the smallish Lewis). And the same day in Utah, which bears some demographic similarity to southern Idaho, Sanders did even better. That’s not the general electorate, of course, only participants in the Democratic meetings. But their unusually large size (for caucuses) coupled with the overwhelming result surely carries a message.

Many of the caucus meetings were much larger than expected, and many participants waited in long lines – four to five hours in Boise – to participate. The actual process often took more hours still, vastly unlike the normal duck-in-duck-out voting in primary and general elections. (A lot of Democrats have complained about the caucus procedures, which also excluded many who wanted to vote but, for illness, employment or other reasons, could not get to the sites on time.)

Consider too: These were public votes, not secret ballots. When Idaho Republicans cast ballots in their recent primary, no one ever saw who you supported. At the Democratic caucuses, you had to publicly endorse your candidate. If you were going to support that New York-accented Democratic socialist from Vermont, as nearly four out of five Idaho Democrats did, in the face of opposition not only from the majority Republicans in the county all around you but also most of the state’s Democratic leadership as well, you were doing it as publicly as if you’d taken out a display ad in the newspaper. More: You had to look those people in the eye.

That may not be so big a deal in Latah County or Blaine County, or in Boise. But think about those Democrats in Madison County – which has been called, with justification, the most Republican county in the nation – and in Cassia, Franklin, Lemhi, or Payette. The culture in these counties, in nearly all of Idaho, is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. Local Democrats most typically keep their heads down. But in significant numbers, in support of a candidate labeled as far-left and “socialist,” they were visible last week.

One astonished Magic Valley woman commented at her caucus, “Hey, 140 people in Jerome. I am not alone.” What they did took serious fortitude. (As it would if you were a Republican caucusing for, say, Ted Cruz in an overwhelming liberal Democratic locale.)

What does this imply for politics in Idaho and beyond?

Maybe, maybe, that something is changing in Idaho. It may indicate that there are plenty of Democratic sympathizers out there, unorganized (“unchurched”?) who have little in common with most of the state’s Democratic establishment. Many Idaho Democrats for years have tried to position themselves not to lose, or at least lose badly, and shaped their message to mesh at least partly with that of the Republicans. Maybe these Democrats out there, and possibly others as well, are signaling now they would be more responsive to something else.

After the caucuses, state Democratic Chair Bert Marley, a superdelegate to the national convention with an unbound vote, said he would vote there for Sanders. That may be a first step to one of the most useful things leading Idaho Democrats could do in the months ahead: Make contact with these super-determined caucus goers, and find out whats motivating them. In many respects these people seem to be the new majority among Democrats in Idaho, and maybe elsewhere.

Fill ‘er up

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There’s a logic some political people embrace through the years that goes like this: When it comes to offices you’re highly unlikely to win, you’re better off if no one from your party files as a challenger for it. That way, you’ll be putting in fewer resources on loser races, and you can focus on the better prospects.

I’ve never bought it.

For one thing, a “placeholder” candidacy really doesn’t cost a lot more than the filing fee, and usually you can avoid that by collecting petition signatures – a good organizing tool in itself. For another, it demonstrates that members of that party really are around, a psychological lever. Even placeholders usually participate in debates and are profiled in news reports, good free media for the minority party. And placeholders tend to bring their own small group of supporters into the arena.

But among the various other reasons filling those slots is a good idea, there’s pre-eminently this: You never know what might happen to the majority party or its candidates in the months ahead.

What if, for example, the Larry Craig 2007 airport scandal, which surfaced in August that year, had surfaced instead in August (or later in) 2008? Before those reports, Craig would have been nearly unbeatable for re-election; afterward, with the right set of responses to the headlines, lightning might actually have struck for the Democrat. Or maybe not, but the possibility would have been real.

Idaho Democrats in recent years have had a tougher time filling major office ballot positions, and only days before the the filing deadline did party organizers produce candidates for the top three this year: Jerry Sturgill for the Senate (incumbent: Republican Mike Crapo), James Piotrowski for the first district House seat (incumbent: Republican Raul Labrador) and Jennifer Martinez for the second district (incumbent: Republican Mike Simpson). They seem to be good candidates, though by starting so late, they’re at a big disadvantage, and that only piles on top of other disadvantages facing all Democrats in recent years. Last cycle, Democrats produced candidates for major offices much earlier, and still generally lost in landslides.

They have to know, going in, that their odds are not good.

But Democrats were right to make the recruiting effort for these congressional level seats, and for many others at the legislative and other levels. The old caution that you never know what the months ahead might bring seems especially valid this year.

At this is written, businessman Donald Trump (who came in second place in the Idaho primary) looks most likely to become the Republican nominee for president. But will he? If he does, how do the more establishment or philosophically-oriented Republicans react – do they support him or, as some openly discuss, will they bolt and support an independent candidacy, or sit the race out? If Trump is denied the nomination, how do his supporters react?

Trump has built strong support within Republican-supporting ranks, but how will he be received in the general election voting population? (Probably a good deal differently.)

How will Idaho’s elected and party officials respond to a Trump candidacy, or the fallout from a battle over it? Almost none of Idaho’s elected officials have come out in public support of Trump, which may reflect what their constituents think. What will happen to Republican unity under those conditions?

Six months from now, how will people look at the two major parties – the same way they do today, or differently?

There are no easy answers. That’s why you’re wise to cover as many of the contingencies as you can.

The split

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Here, on Tuesday night and since, is a map to ponder: The Idaho split between counties whose Republicans voted for businessman Donald Trump and those who preferred Senator Ted Cruz.

I’ve been trying to align the collection of counties for either candidate with any other kind of lineup, and nothing obvious suggests itself. This may take a little creativity.

There were a dozen Trump counties, scooped out of the center of the state: from the north, Shoshone, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho, Lemhi, Adams, Valley, Custer, Boise, Elmore, Blaine and Camas. They occupy roughly the geographic center of the state and its most lightly populated regions too; the state’s largest wilderness areas are there, but not one of the state’s 16 largest cities. (Mountain Home was the largest city in a county that went for Trump.)

But, although Cruz won all of the state’s larger cities, many of the state’s smallest, most sparsely populated and most rural counties, like Clark, Oneida, Owyhee, Lincoln, Butte and Adams, also were Cruz counties.

Analyses of counties that were more or less sparsely populated, or included more or fewer college graduates, didn’t seem to match closely with the county breakdowns.

The Trump counties included the state’s most Democratic county, Blaine, and one or two other relatively Democratic counties (Shoshone, Lewis), but Blaine Democrats are quite different from Shoshone Democrats (or those in most of the other counties). And most of these counties are as Republican as any in Idaho. Trump’s message on the economy and joblessness may have hit in some of these places, though, since counties like Adams, Clearwater and Shoshone have had especially consistent struggles with unemployment for a couple of decades.

The 32 Cruz counties occupy most of southern Idaho, including nearly all the areas touched by an interstate or near a regional center, and the north along Highway 95 and the Washington border from Lewiston to Canada. These regions, north and south, are very different kinds of areas.

The closest to uniformity was the fourth-place finish for Ohio Governor John Kasich in every county but Blaine – Idaho’s most Democratic.

The speculation that Mormons would tend to support Florida Senator Marco Rubio came to little, apart from the point that all of the counties where Rubio reached second place – like Bonneville, Bannock, Madison, Jefferson, Teton, and Oneida – were bunched in eastern Idaho, mostly in counties with a very strong LDS presence. Rubio’s stop in Idaho Falls, his one counterpart stop alongside Boise in the weekend before the election, was surely no accident. Nor were the endorsements from people either leading in (businessman Frank VanderSloot) or close to (Senator Jim Risch) the LDS community.

So why did Cruz prevail in those areas? The guess here is that last week was a bad news stretch for Rubio, and word spread that his chances of getting the nomination were crashing. That would have led to a choice between the ideological and church-oriented Cruz and the more free-form (and more secular) angry Trump. (Kasich, widely perceived – however inaccurately – as a moderate, likely wasn’t a serious factor.) In that framework, the choice for many Mormons probably would have become clear.

Looked at that way, from a social and organizational point of view, the map starts to make more sense. The areas with large conservative (but not party) organizations, and those including the larger church organizations, tend to match up well with the Cruz counties. The small town areas relatively out of the pull of regional centers tended to go for Trump.

What will be worth watching is this: Will different kind of political appeals, different kinds of politics and campaigning, start to matter in these two types of areas?

Idaho’s choice

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In this season so uncomfortable for many Republicans a new question may soon arise: What’s most important, party or philosophy?

On Tuesday, and then again possibly in November, we’ll get hard numbers on that, because what’s on the ballot will give Idaho’s Republicans, and their elected leaders, a choice.

Not in many, many years has a leading Republican candidate for president run so distant from what Idaho Republicans have for generations accepted as gospel: Less government, lower taxes, support business, oppose abortion, and so on. Reflection Reaganism, if you’re a Republican, and you’re golden.

In much of Idaho, there’s been a significant related factor: The close alliance between most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who account for about a third of the vote in Idaho and a much higher percentage of Republican voters, and orthodox Republicans. (The church itself takes no formal position on presidential or other political races.)

Enter now Donald Trump, the most probable Republican nominee for president and most significant Republican breaker of the mold since before Reagan.

He is not a reciter of the GOP mantra, not even close. He doesn’t see public policy through the small-government/lower-taxes lens. The main philosophy of Donald Trump’s campaign is Donald Trump, and even that changes from week to week. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who had overwhelming support in Idaho, remarked on Thursday, “There's plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign, and on the Ku Klux Klan, daily for three days in a row.”

He also attached Trump to “the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss”.
In saying so, Romney probably did not run afoul of many of his fellow churchgoers.

On Tuesday, Christopher Cunningham, the content director of LDS.net (a website not affiliated with the church but closely supportive of it) made what may be a powerful argument for church members. (You can read it at http://lds.net/blog/buzz/lds-news/donald-trump-opinion-on-mormons/) He described a 2014 interview of Trump by McKay Coppins: “Trump insisted that Mitt Romney lost because his faith was ‘alien.’ But as Trump’s thoughts on the Church turned negative, Coppins interrupted explaining that he was Mormon. Trump then changed his tune saying, ‘People don’t understand the Mormon thing. I do. I get it.’”

Cunningham also quoted a Trump spokesman, who was defending the candidate’s proposals to investigate and possibly close mosques, as adding (approvingly), “It’s no different than a Mormon Church. You’ve had the DOJ investigate Mormon Churches and shut them down.”

In all, Cunningham said, “the uncorrected hostility between Donald Trump and Mormons is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. You may have to go back to Grover Cleveland in 1889 to find similar anti-Mormon sentiment from a presidential campaign.”

Few well-known Idaho political figures have signed on with Trump and offered a favorable counter-message. One who has is Skip Brandt, an Idaho County commissioner (and former legislator), who wrote in a letter to the editor: “The stakes could not be higher. The politically correct socialists are about to destroy our country. Donald Trump is the common-sense conservative who can change Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has the establishment (Democrats and Republicans alike) scared to death. Why? Because Trump is a private sector businessman that is used to saying ‘You’re fired.’”

So what message will Idahoans back on Tuesday? Polling has shown Trump running strong in the Gem State, well positioned to win as he has in many other deeply red states.

To the extent he does, Idaho’s political analysts will have their work cut out parsing an Idaho electorate that maybe didn’t care – all along – about many of the things its political leaders have assumed it does. And then the follow-up question: What about November?

From a podcast

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You can follow what’s going on at the Idaho Legislature in many ways besides the conventional news media and digital streaming. One of them is through the reports released by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Another, it turns out, is through podcasts – such as one released last week by state Representative Kelly Packer, a Republican from McCammon, on the subject of the IFF.

The IFF, which is run by Wayne Hoffman, has been a major presence at the Statehouse for some years. It has generated news-type reports on legislative activity, and also made clear its support or opposition to various pieces of legislation, which Hoffman is careful to say does not constitute lobbying. (Not everyone agrees with that.) Its most impactful activity, though, may be its regular scoring of legislators on a “freedom index,” which is derived from support or opposition to various pieces of legislation. The scores informally are used to describe Republicans as relatively conservative or not. Those ranking low may be attacked as RINOS (Republican in Name Only), which can be hazardous in a Republican primary.

(Ironically, all this matters far less to the Democrats, who’d face sharper questions if they scored well.)

This week, in response, legislator Packer said that. “I just had finally had enough. I wanted to push back.”

She said this on her regular podcast, available online to her constituents and others. (The web address for this one is https://soundcloud.com/kelley-packer/week-6-rep-kelley-packer-2016-idaho-legislative-report.) Packer is no RINO, as her overall comments and past work as a Republican county chair make clear. But in her latest podcast (at about th 6:20 mark), she had some sharp words for IFF.

“It’s more concerted this session than it has been in the past,” she said. Packer said she was at one time supportive of the group: “I was looking forward to having someone that would provide an honest conservative view as well.” Now, she said, “They don’t like me,” and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“There are just a lot of ironies and hypocrisies that I see in place” she said. “With a 501(c)3 those people that donate to them get a full tax deduction, but the offset to that is that they’re not supposed to be able to lobby, and yet they do. And in fact in the campaign season for 2014, I believe, they put up billboards smearing good conservatives . . . another hypocrisy is they’re very un-transparent even though they ask everyone else to be transparent.”

Her immediate concerns run inside the statehouse: “I watch people selling their votes in order to get a certain score, and that is worrisome to me. When you put on blinders and you simply follow any organization and you just do what they want you to do, then how can you really be saying you’re representing your district or the people that put you here; how can you say in good conscience you’re doing your due diligence ad understanding the issues well enough to do the right thing every time? You’re not. You’re turning your power and vote over to that organization ...”

For several years, the IFF report card has been an influential medium within the Idaho Legislature. But as Packer’s podcasts show, there’s growing potential for other new media to counter and compete with it, which may come as a relief to a number of legislators and to many of their constituents.

Overlapping campaigns

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Thursday night, Boise Democrats had two schedule-overlapping political events to choose from, both with reverberations in presidential politics.

One was the campaign kick off, at a downtown eatery, for TJ Thomson who is running for Ada County commissioner. Thomson’s political task is difficult (while Boise leans Democratic, Ada overall leans Republican), but not impossible for a well-organized candidate. And Thomson, a young and energetic candidate, will be nothing if not organized. For evidence, consider the 2008 primary (not general) campaign in Idaho for Barack Obama. It was extremely well organized – Obama won – and Thomson was one of its main leaders. A year later he was elected to the Boise City Council, where he still serves.

The other event was a campaign organizing event held at the home of former Representative Larry La Rocco, for a Democratic presidential contender of 2008 and today: Hillary Clinton. Some Democrats tried to scramble from one event to another.

I’m not suggesting here that these activities neatly split Clinton Democrats from those backing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; that didn’t seem to be the case. Based on what I heard from a bunch of Idaho Democrats this week, however, the race between the two in Idaho appears to be highly competitive. It is, in other words, a lot different from 2008 battle when one candidate, Obama, swept Idaho so decisively that Idaho became one of his best nomination wins anywhere in the country.

This time, in contrast, no one seemed entirely confident in predicting who will prevail when Idaho Democrats caucus on March 22.

Anecdotes I heard seem to suggest Idaho Democrats are splitting much like many of their counterparts elsewhere. Younger party members are said to be trending toward Sanders, their elders – and especially many people in party or elective positions – more toward Clinton. The differences didn’t appear to break much on policy or idea grounds. Sanders’ newness to the party and his Socialist tag were concerns on one side; fatigue, dynastic and trust issues linked to Clinton were problems cited on the other. Those disabilities were mentioned more than the assets the two candidates bring, which may have something to do simply with being a Democrat in blood-red Idaho.

There’s not much new in any of this for a close watcher of the national political contest, which seems to be tightening and becoming ever more competitive, and is getting ever more closely parsed. If Sanders does well in Nevada (an election still in the future as this was written), the nomination battle may become extremely close.

In a carefully-calculated chart labeled “Where Bernie Sanders needs to win,” polling analyst Nate Silver last week isolated states where Sanders and Clinton should, based on polling, demographic and other factors, do relatively well or badly. That chart suggested Sanders ought to do better than average in Idaho, winning in the Gem State by 11 percentage points if Clinton is ahead nationally by 12 points; and Sanders winning Idaho by a blowout 23 points if the two are tied nationally.

At least, that’s what a statistical analysis says. Clinton will have a large chunk of the Idaho Democratic leadership and a party base, and her campaign apparently has had staffers on the ground in Idaho, already at work organizing.

If the race is still competitive a month from now, which looks at least possible, Idaho really could become a Democratic battleground.

Idaho for Trump, Cruz or?

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The New Hampshire presidential primary seems to have set the shape of the Republican contest for some time to come, bringing into focus some questions awaiting Idaho’s Republicans. And for Idaho’s many establishment Republicans, those may be eerie questions.

This year’s Republican nomination battle is far more splintered in Idaho than it has been for many years. Four years ago, the establishment was solidly behind Mitt Romney, and until he dropped out in 2008 he had strong backing then as well. George W. Bush had the Idaho establishment firmly in his corner the two elections before that.

Idaho’s three-term governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, and its longest-serving members of Congress, Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson, seem to have stayed out of the fracas so far. Maybe they were uncertain how the field would play out and how Idaho would react. Or they may have observed what happened to other endorsees. Senator Rand Paul, backed by Representative Raul Labrador, has dropped out. And Senator Marco Rubio, backed by Senator Jim Risch, Controller Brandon Woolf and Idaho Falls businessman Frank VanderSloot (a veteran of the Romney campaigns), only days ago seemed ascendant but had the daylights kicked out of him in New Hampshire, and his campaign’s future is highly uncertain.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, backed by former Idaho Governor and Senator Dirk Kempthone, lives to fight another day, but right now seems a long shot for the nomination. Ohio Governor John Kasich, backed by Idaho legislators Marv Hagedorn and Robert Anderst, did well taking second place in New Hampshire (after barely registering in Iowa), but he invested almost everything he had – time, money, people – into that state, and has scarcely any campaign organization or built-in support in the states yet to vote.

Just two Republican candidates actually seem well positioned for the race to come: Texas Senator Ted Cruz and businessman Donald Trump. Cruz has a couple of fairly well-known Idaho Republicans backing him, Treasurer Ron Crane and former state Republican Chair Norm Semanko, but if there’s wider support it isn’t yet very visible. As for Trump, I’m not sure who his highest-profile Idaho backers would be. There’s a Facebook page called “Idaho for Donald Trump 2016” with 860 likes, but hardly any local content – almost all of it is reposts of national material. And yet statistically, Trump probably has a significant number of Gem State supporters.

Who will Idaho Republicans support for president, assuming – and this is looking actually more likely than not right now – the race is still competitive by the time Idahoans get to vote on it?

I read a fascinating analysis (wish I could recall where I saw it) drawing a structural distinction between the Trump and Cruz campaigns, and implicitly the difference between those two and a “conventional mainstream” campaign (like a Bush or Rubio, assuming one of them survives to the later stages). It goes something like this:

Trump supporters are mainly individualists, drawn to the campaign person by person or family by family, and are numerous but for the most part not well organized into groups. Cruz’ people by contrast tend to be organized, some in ideologically-based organizations (like the various conservative groups that have splintered the Kootenai County Republican factions), others tied to evangelical or other churches, still others linked to other kinds of organizations – groups with strong ideological or religious drives which have not been satisfied with the national Republican Party (which Cruz calls the “cartel”). Cruz has carefully reached out to these groups around the country, and won support from many of them. Then there’s the mainstreamers, who would be those most traditionally tied to Republican party organizations and officials.

What makes the Idaho analysis so hard is this: The first two groups, which clearly exist in substantial ways in Idaho, have not in the past played a large role in selecting the state’s presidential nomination choices. This year, those individualized dissidents and the dissatisfied small groups, who in the past often seem to have taken their lead from the party organization, appear much less likely to do that, and may go their own way – which might translate to substantial votes for Trump and Cruz, as in many other states.

Right now, the Idaho Republican establishment may have reason to be as spooked as the national Republican establishment is.