Congressman Raul Labrador, the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation to endorse someone in the GOP presidential race, may have learned something about himself when sitting on the sidelines four years ago as candidates were posturing for the 2012 election.
First, he’s not much of one for sitting on the sidelines. He went to Congress in 2011, promising to make a lot of noise, and not taking up space. He has kept his word – often blasting away at the political establishment of both parties.
The second thing he might have learned is that sideline sitting does nothing for him, personally or politically. Being a non-entity in almost anything, especially a presidential race, does not fit his personality.
So it’s no surprise that Labrador has endorsed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. And it’s no surprise that Paul appointed Labrador to head his campaign in the western states. Politically, it’s a match made in heaven – or in the other direction, depending on your political perspective.
But, what’s Labrador’s end game? Labrador says if Paul moves to the White House, he’d be able to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Mr. President, I have an issue that’s important …”
That would be nice, of course. But Labrador is not one to be satisfied with collecting private cell phone numbers. He tends to look for bigger prizes, and a Rand Paul victory could provide the ticket. If Labrador turns out to be Paul’s kingmaker in the western states, there are several possibilities within a Paul administration – including a cabinet position. Or, Labrador could have more leverage in the House as the president’s chief ally on Capitol Hill. If Labrador is traveling to other states and speaking on behalf of the candidate, it only raises Labrador’s profile. One thing he likes is a high profile.
Labrador leaves himself an escape in case Paul doesn’t win. He talks glowingly about the quality of candidates in the race. “For the first time in my adult life, I feel like I am picking the best of the best candidates, instead of the best of the worst.”
Of course, Labrador wouldn’t have the same clout with Sen. Marco Rubio or Gov. Scott Walker if they happened to win the GOP nod. But Labrador still could come out with a higher profile and expanded following – which makes him a winner no matter what.
For now, Labrador’s focus is helping his guy win the nomination. Endorsing Paul makes sense. Both are relatively young turks who want to turn Washington on its ear and show that it’s possible to be forward-looking, and a conservative.
“He understands that we are about the future, and not the past,” Labrador said. “He’s serious about solving problems. There are people in Washington who play lip service, but are unwilling to do the hard things.”
Moreover, Labrador said, “I think he’s the candidate who is in the best position to actually win a national election. In five of the last six presidential elections, we have lost the popular vote, and Republicans need to remember that. We cannot continue as a party to lose the popular vote, or we will never have a Republican in the White House. Rand Paul can bring new people and new energy into the party.”
Yeah, but … how about the family bloodline? Jeb Bush, viewed as the political establishment’s front-runner at the moment, is part of a political dynasty. Rand Paul’s dad is Ron Paul, who barely made a dent in his presidential run. His partial claim to fame was being on the wrong side of 433-2 votes with one-time Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth.
Labrador thinks voters will learn quickly that Rand Paul is not his father, any more than Jeb Bush is a new version of George H.W. Bush. “Some philosophies and ideas may be similar, but I think Rand has a more grounded view of the world.” Labrador thinks the more that Americans get to know Paul through the debates, the more they will like him.
Labrador describes Paul as “my kind of conservative.” No doubt, Labrador is the kind of fireball Paul wants stumping for him.
Regardless of how all this plays out, one thing is for certain. What Labrador is doing is a lot more gratifying than sitting on the sidelines.