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Early Voting, Endorsements and Plenty of Cash: Idaho Inches Toward National Political Limelight

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DWIGHT BURDETTE, CC BY 3.0


With early voting in the Idaho GOP presidential primary already under way in Ada and Canyon counties, Republican party bigwigs are starting to reveal their alliances.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced Feb. 24 that he was throwing his support to a fellow governor, Ohio chief executive John Kasich.

"There's simply no substitute for executive experience," wrote Otter in his statement of support, pointing to Kasich's "message of optimism."

Earlier this month, Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador said he was supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the GOP presidential nomination. Labrador shifted his endorsement to Cruz when Labrador's first choice—Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—dropped out of the race.

Cruz supporters said their candidate has tentatively accepted invitations to make appearances in Idaho Falls and Coeur d'Alene in early March. Eastern Idaho GOP officials said they're hoping to secure candidates Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to debate Cruz at an Idaho Falls Republican forum on Monday, March 7.

It wouldn't be the first time Rubio has visited eastern Idaho. The freshman U.S. senator pressed flesh at a June 2015 Idaho GOP summer meeting in Idaho Falls. 

"I think you'll see more potential candidates visiting here soon," Rubio said at the time. "I look forward to being back."

Rubio has since received the support of Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot, who told the Associated Press in November 2015 that "[Rubio] is clearly, in our opinion, the brightest of the bunch."

Meanwhile, the flap over a a series of billboards promoting Idaho's March 8 GOP presidential primary appears to have been settled. The Idaho secretary of state's office announced this week it would take out any reference to the March 8 primary from the 22 billboards. The Idaho Democratic Party had cried foul, saying the SOS was promoting one political party's event while not acknowledging the Democratic Party's presidential caucuses, set for March 22nd.