National Committee chairman finds heaven in Idaho

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The Republicans picked a sweltering day for the grand opening of the Ada County GOP’s campaign headquarters in Meridian.

Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. (Mike) Duncan traveled from Washington D.C. to speak and officially cut the ribbon. He likened the experience to being in paradise.

“I’m proud to be in such a red state today. I wanted to come here because I wanted to know what it was gonna be like when I got to heaven,” Duncan, a Kentuckian, drawled, to crowd laughter and a couple shouted “Amen’s.”

Bill Riggs, Duncan’s regional press secretary, said the stop in Idaho was part of a Western three-state tour including Utah and Arizona.

Sid Smith, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Idaho, was contacted only a couple weeks ago by Duncan’s staff to arrange the ribbon-cutting.

“I think he figured Idaho would be a good place to come,” Smith said, “and give us a little bit of an ‘Atta-boy’ for the grass roots volunteers.”
Duncan worked this volunteerism into his short speech, saying how proud he was of Idaho “for all it’s done for the Republican party” but also—and this drew the loudest cheer of the afternoon—“because of Sarah!”

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He used the opportunity to stress what he called John McCain’s leadership and experience and to lambast Barack Obama for what he called naïveté over Obama’s willingness to consider meeting with foreign leaders without preconditions.

Duncan later compared the vice presidential candidates, saying “I just love Joe Biden, because he loves to talk, he loves the sound of his own voice… And you compare that with Sarah Palin… someone who balances her family life with her professional life, and who has been a leader, who stood up to her state party in Alaska,” he said.

The Chairman used a pair of hedge clippers to cut the red ribbon. Someone had joked earlier that the decision was made on purpose, to reflect how Meridian was still “the hub of the Treasure Valley” and that the clippers symbolized “getting back to our grass roots.”

After the ceremony, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and Duncan held a press conference. All the questions revolved around the current financial meltdown rather than on the Republican presidential or local campaigns, a marked departure from the direction of Duncan’s earlier speech.

“It is clearly a better product,” Risch said of the newest version of the bailout bill. “On Thursday it’ll be an even better product that it was yesterday.”

Duncan consistently steered his answers back to why he feels John McCain is more qualified to be the next president.

“We saw one alternative where John McCain offered leadership. He suspended his campaign, he went to Washington…because he understood that the votes were not there, that this is philosophically a very difficult vote for a lot of people,” Duncan said.

He said he didn’t see a lot of leadership out of Barack Obama, but also admitted, “I’m a partisan.”

Several local Republican legislators attended the opening, such as Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Controller Donna Jones, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Norm Semanko, the recently elected Idaho GOP chairman. Several state House and Senate candidates were also present.

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