With all the drama in the Republican Party during this presidential election, it’s easy for Idahoans to forget about the elephant in the room.
I’m not referring to the Grand Old Party’s elephant or the Alabama Crimson Tide’s elephant. I’m talking about the GOP’s sinister plot to deliver Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next president of the United States.
What in the name of Trump Tower is going on around here? This should be a year-long celebration for Republicans, given their competition on the Democratic side. The most electable candidate is a former secretary of state who used national security material as part of her email chats. “Sorry, can’t go to the soccer match tomorrow. We’re bombing North Korea.” Her challenger is a 75-year-old man, who looks 85 – and is a socialist.
So how are Republicans responding to this good fortune? With character assassination and cannibalism – on one another. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, has been called a “con artist.” Mitt Romney has labeled him as a “phony and a fraud.” Ted Cruz is a “liar” and “Little Marco Rubio” is a Senate lightweight. The GOP convention ought to be a lovefest in Cleveland; instead, it’s shaping up to be the world’s biggest knife fight.
At least one Idaho Democrat, former Congressman Richard Stallings, is thoroughly enjoying the show. He’s working with Clinton’s campaign team in Idaho and sees the stars lining up for electing the nation’s first woman president.
“I think the Republican Party is heading over the cliff, and I don’t see anything that can stop it,” Stallings says. “Trump is a one-man wrecking crew to the party. Cruz is probably the least popular politician on the hill; if you want to sink legislation, get him to endorse it. Rubio is like a freshman in college … not much backbone or leadership. While he’s kind of a charming guy, we need more than charm as commander-in-chief.
Of course, none of this matters in Idaho, where Republican presidential candidates win by landslides. It’s a safe bet that this year will be no exception.
Democratic candidates, as usual, will run as far away as they can from the national ticket – which is what Stallings would do if he had beaten 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson in the last election. Stallings always backed the Democrat candidate during his eight years in Congress, but made it a practice of never getting too close.
“When I came out in favor of Walter Mondale in 1984, my poll numbers dropped about 10 points,” he said. “But it would have been stupid for me to do otherwise. Democrats would have abandoned me, and I would not have picked up Republican support.”
The rules are different for Stallings today. He’s not interested in running for office again, but remains involved in Democratic politics in Idaho – often recruiting candidates to run for national office. So he can be as vocal as he wants about presidential politics. Stallings is no fan of former President Clinton; Stallings thinks Bill Clinton should have resigned in the face of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But he likes what Hillary offers, and doesn’t hold it against her for marrying poorly.
“She is, by far, the best-prepared candidate we have out there – having been a first lady, a U.S. senator, and secretary of state. She’s probably the best candidate on the Democratic side since Lyndon Johnson. She’s well-grounded on foreign policy and domestic policy, and she has proven herself to be a fighter.” Stallings said.
“If I were going to a heart surgeon, I would not go to someone who is fresh out of medical school who was wondering about whether he should have cheated on that aorta-valve exam,” he said.
Stallings views Clinton as the kind of steady hand the nation needs in the Oval Office. Republicans, of course, will disagree sharply. But the lower that Republican candidates stoop in this campaign, the better Hillary Clinton looks.
If she wins the White House, she can thank the Republican Party for putting her there.