The surprising/not surprising political news of the day

Sam Stein, the Huffington Post’s senior politics editor, took to Twitter Tuesday morning to offer a quick take on Rep. Raul Labrador’s run for governor.

“Whoa,” tweeted Stein.

Nope.

Labrador’s news elicited plenty of rapid reactions around the Boise Twitterverse, but the prevailing sentiment was not “whoa,” but “yup.”

Idaho pundits and politicos have been waiting for months for Labrador to announce his plans for 2018. Most expected Labrador to run for governor. By filing his paperwork and naming a campaign treasurer — former State Board of Education member Milford Terrell — Labrador can now start raising money for a contested Republican primary in 12 months.

The only surprise Tuesday was in Labrador’s timing.

By stating that no one dies because of a lack of health care — just one day after House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — Labrador threw himself into a harsh spotlight. He became the human face of a Congress that critics consider callous and clueless.

Hence, perhaps, the surprise from beyond the Boise Beltway. “That Guy, the Health Care Guy, wants to be governor?”

Well, yup. Most Idaho political observers saw it coming.

That doesn’t make Tuesday morning’s quiet filing any less intriguing. Yes, Labrador promised a formal announcement in the next few weeks, and Labrador campaign staffer China Gum called the filing a “procedural move.”

But in a way, making this move Tuesday fits Labrador’s political modus operandi.

Labrador has always fashioned himself as the type of politician who doesn’t back down from a fight, and no one can accuse him of playing it safe Tuesday. By filing now, in the face of a public firestorm, Labrador might even score some points with his base, the hardline conservatives apt to vote in a closed GOP primary. Meanwhile, by holding off on a formal announcement, Labrador avoids a media event that would have been dominated with questions about health care. That’s called message control.

So Tuesday was an interesting day in Idaho politics. Just not a surprising one.

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