Idaho Provides Cash
Crop for Romney
In deciding yesterday to harshly condemn Sen. Larry Craig, Mitt Romney surely was motivated in large part by wanting to distance himself nationally from the man who had served as co-chairman of Romney's Idaho leadership team. Also relevant to Romney, though, is how his sharp reaction to Craig is received within Idaho itself -- because the Gem State is playing a disproportionately significant role in his campaign.
Consider: Through the end of June, Romney had received $416,358 in campaign contributions from Idaho residents. That is nearly three-quarters of the total given to all presidential candidates from Idaho, far more than anyone else received: roughly $32,000 for John McCain, $16,000 for Rudy Giuliani, $23,000 for Hillary Clinton, and $23,000 for Barack Obama. To put the figure in further context, Romney's take from Idaho, pop. 1.4 million, exceeds what he brought in from far larger states such as of Pennsylvania (pop. 12.4 million) and New Jersey (pop. 8.7 million) by a ratio of roughly ten times as much contribution-per-capita.
It's not surprising that Romney commands so much support in the state. It borders Utah, the site of Romney's notable success with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. And a large number of Idahoans belong, like Romney, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- an estimated quarter of the state is Mormon, the second-highest proportion after Utah. In addition to Craig (who is not Mormon), Romney has locked up the support of many leading politicians in the state, including the lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, controller and more than 20 state legislators.
Randy Stapilus, a former editor at the Idaho Statesman and author of several books on Idaho politics, said today that it remains to be seen how Idahoans will react to Romney's strong comments on CNBC yesterday, which included calling reports of Craig's arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom "disgusting" and declaring, "I'm sorry to see that he has fallen short." On the one hand, many Idahoans seem to be skeptical of Craig's denials of any wrongdoing, said Stapilus. But there is a chance that over the longer term, Romney's rapid-fire rejection of the state's senior senator on national television might rankle some, he added.
"Some of [Romney's] people might be wondering, does this create some problems when you have the senior elected official in Idaho being set upon this way," said Stapilus.
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