The governor’s race rumor-o-rama

It’s never too early to speculate about election matchups — and a Tuesday column from the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey focuses the spotlight on Rep. Raul Labrador.

Raul Labrador

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador

The 1st Congressional District lawmaker says he’ll decide by midyear about whether to run for governor — or stay put in Congress.

In the column, Popkey writes at length about the way Labrador worked a crowd at a town hall meeting in Meridian last week: “If he really aspires to be governor, 2014 looks like his year. I say this after watching the Republican play an adoring crowd like a cross between Jack Kennedy and Jerry Seinfeld.”

(Not as funny, to the second-term congressman, is some unsavory media attention paid to a tweet sent out during the Super Bowl, on Labrador’s congressional account. The tweet, “Me likey Broke Girls,” was a nod to an ad for the less than family-friendly CBS sitcom “Two Broke Girls.” The tweet was pulled within 14 seconds, and blamed on a staffer).

Of course, the sitcom tastes of Labrador (or his staff) are unlikely to be make-or-break stuff in a GOP primary, 15 months out. The bigger question is how Labrador is perceived by party faithful.

220px-ButchOtterOfficialCongressionalPortrait

Gov. Butch Otter

Having challenged incumbent Gov. Butch Otter while in the Legislature, rebuffing the governor on gas tax increases, Labrador is seen as something of an outsider — an image that may help him on the town meeting front, but may hurt him with GOP insiders. Writes Popkey: “Otter, 70, would be formidable because of decades of good will, hearty backing from big funders and a distrust of Labrador among Main Street businesspeople.”

That Main Street crowd might also be quick to coalesce behind Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Otter’s understudy who has been widely seen as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate in waiting. But then again, Otter said in December 2011 that he would seek a third term —  which would likely preclude Little from running, but has done little to tamp down speculation about Labrador’s future.

Here at Idaho Education News, we’ll certainly watch the comings and goings in the governor’s race. Partly because, well, we’re political junkies. But mostly because the campaign, and its outcome, figures to have a profound impact on education policy and funding. We’ll watch the elections through the prism of education issues — but we will watch closely.

And we’ll listen closely on Friday, when Otter holds his annual “Breakfast With Butch” Q&A session with the Statehouse media corps. Do you think his 2014 plans might come up in the Q&A?

Me likey the odds.