Chuck Malloy SmallIdaho Sen. Mike Crapo has plenty of opinions about President Obama, the economy and what a Republican president needs to do to fix the problems both home and abroad.

But Crapo clams up when asked who he thinks should be occupying the White House, and who can defeat Hillary Clinton in next year’s presidential election. He prefers, instead, to sit on the sidelines as party leaders and primary voters go about selecting a nominee.

Crapo mentions Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as a candidate who might be able to win, and says that businessman Donald Trump is “saying what people are feeling, and in the way they are feeling.” But that’s about as far as the senior senator goes in talking about the candidates. He might be the only politician on Capitol Hill who is holding back his opinions on presidential politics.

“I think there are six or seven of them who could win,” Crapo said.

Sen. Jim Risch is not staying silent. He is endorsing Rubio, giving the Florida senator props for his “understanding and quick grasp” of issues.

“Notably, his communication skills, which are so important in this business, are unparalleled,” Risch said in a statement, reported by POLITICO. “Marco brings a fresh view to the many challenges facing America today, domestically with our serious financial problems and internationally with our security and standing on the world stage, both dramatically deteriorating.”

Making an endorsement might be easy for Risch, since he’s not up for re-election next year. Crapo may have more to lose politically by choosing a favorite. Two of his Senate colleagues, Rubio and Ted Cruz of Texas, are among the poll leaders, and Crapo – one of the nice guys in this dog-eat-dog world of politics – doesn’t like to offend friends.

Also, taking a stand on the presidential election is one quick way to draw out a formidable opponent in the primaries – which Crapo wants to avoid. He could turn off some voters by coming out for the bombastic Trump. He could be viewed as “too liberal” by supporting Rubio, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, or Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; or “too conservative” if he were to go with Cruz or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

By staying neutral, Crapo doesn’t stir anger and everybody can have happy holidays. He’s treating this election campaign as if he has a race – even though he doesn’t at this point.

“We are running a full-blown election,” he told agriculture-industry supporters in Caldwell last week. “When I run a campaign, I run like I am 10 points behind and I run all the way like that to the finish line. We have a full campaign under way. We are prepared for a full primary election and for a full general election. We have organization on the ground in every county, we have organized fundraising effort across the country and throughout Idaho, and we are taking nothing for granted.”

Of course, no Republican in his/her right mind would dare take on this political machine. He’ll probably draw token Democratic opposition in the general election – assuming Democrats can find some poor soul to go on that political suicide mission.

While he’s stumping, Crapo throws out plenty of red meat to his supporters. One of his favorite targets is the national debt, which was below $3 trillion in 2007 and is now more than $18 trillion under President Obama’s watch.

“When you have a president who does not believe we have a crisis, and when you have a Congress that doesn’t have enough support to override, then you have this problem,” he said. “The president believes the way to solve our economic woes is to spend ourselves into prosperity.”

Crapo says a Republican president can set a different tone, starting with undoing some of the executive orders and regulations imposed by the Democratic administration. Even more substantial changes can occur if a Republican president has at least 60 votes in the Senate, which Crapo acknowledges is a “tall order.” Maintaining a majority in the Senate will be challenging enough, he said.

Crapo says there’s plenty of time to rally behind a candidate in the general election. But Crapo won’t have to spend a lot of time convincing Idahoans to vote Republican. Any one of the candidates running most likely would defeat Hillary Clinton in a landslide in this state.

Chuck Malloy is a native Idahoan and long-time political reporter and editorial writer. He is a former political editor with the Post Register of Idaho Falls and a former editorial writer with the Idaho Statesman. He may be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.