by Carissa Wolf
If you're a Republican and you made it, you saw history unfold.
If not, well, it looks like Idaho Republicans favor Romney. Thank the 9,000-plus Ada County Republican denizens who spoke on your behalf and inserted themselves into the history books.
“I came down here because I wanted to make history,” said Terry Leighton of Meridian.
The 2012 Idaho Republican Caucus kept the tone and vibe of your typical Republican pow-wow. The Obama jokes bounced around the arena. Caucus goers lamented what they called out-of-control government spending. And for some, the world leans just a little too liberal for their taste. But the GOP talked more about history than politics on Tuesday night.
“It’s important for my grandchildren to know that I was involved. I want to set an example,” said Karen Haws as she purchased a $10 replica of a token she had just cast of behalf of her candidate. Haws looked at the engraved commemorative token bearing the likes of Abraham Lincoln that she plans to give to her grandchildren. She hopes they look at it and remember that their grandma was a part of history.
“It’s a physical reminder of the night,” Haws said. “It’s a way to say what we do.”
For some, the night was a chance to oust President Barack Obama. Others dropped tokens in buckets for the chance to be heard. Lois Eterson caucused for freedom.
“The people who are here represent freedom. They are the cream of the crop,” Eterson said. “They’re willing to stand up for their rights and their beliefs.”
Eterson headed three generations of Meridian caucus goers on Tuesday. Although the first two generations seemed a little more willing to join the party, according to Eterson’s daughter, Suzan Faw.
“I very much encouraged my family to come because we’re making history,” Faw said. “We hope to get our kids involved because, right now, they really don’t care,” Faw said of her 18- and 21-year-old.
Parents brought plenty of would-be voters in tow. Infants to college students made it a late night. But close to some participants minds were those who couldn’t make it to the event.
“I know a lot of people who would have liked to come — people who were elderly or sick or disabled — but couldn’t make it,” said Sandy Dildin of Meridian. “My daughter would have liked to come. But she had homework. Her senior project is due tomorrow.”
Commentators filled local message boards with gripes about the exclusion of a physical caucus. How would night workers get their say? What about the infirm? And how are folks with physical disabilities going to access a campus with notoriously lousy accessible parking options, they asked.
“A lot of people were upset that they had obligations and couldn’t make it,” former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig said. But he didn’t think the no-shows would have chipped away at presidential hopeful Mitt Romeny’s lead.
“This is representative,” Craig said, scanning the arena that remained packed well past the last tokens being cast and well past a number of Republican bedtimes.
“The fact that they’re still here tells you an awful lot,” said Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. “Look what time it is.” The governor checked his watch. “It’s past 9:30! That’s great!”
The governor beamed as he absorbed the crowd and its sheer numbers. Like a proud grandfather, he bragged about what Idaho did on this night. Ada County managed to pack the largest caucus in the nation.
And then it came — the stadium wave.
“Oh! Here it comes!”
The governor threw his hands above his head as he and Larry Craig became a part of the waving GOP sea.
“This is huge!” Otter said.
“I don’t think we’re going to convince the Idaho Legislature to give us a presidential primary," Craig said. “I’ve always advocated a presidential primary. This is second best. But at the same time, it gave us this,” he said as his eyes followed the wave of Republicans encircling Taco Bell Arena
“There is a feeling of camaraderie here,” Craig said. “In a broad since, we’re all here for the same reason. The governor said it well tonight — we’re here to defeat the sitting president.”