Idaho's Republican governor, Butch Otter, is sitting in Boise trying to figure out what happens next.
Gov. Butch Otter met with Sen. Larry Craig this morning about the transition expected if Craig resigns as he announced Saturday.
After the 10:45 a.m. meeting, Otter's press secretary Jon Hanian said the governor is proceeding based on the assumption that Craig will resign at the end of the month.... But Craig's reconsideration Tuesday of his intent to resign complicated the issue.
"If there is no vacancy, there is no appointment," Otter said.
Craig says that if he can get the whole guilty thing cleared up by September 30, then his resignation is off the table, which (in a remarkable turnaround) Mitchell McConnell seems to think is just fine. As of now, he's saying he would finish out his term, and then retire. Which gives us the potential of many more months of maneuvering among Idaho Republicans.
So Otter keeps waiting, but today he broke his silence on his deliberations about who he might appoint should Craig really leave office. While all of Idaho is assuming that Lt. Gov. Jim Risch would be at the top of the list, Otter is now considering the recommendation of John Foster, executive director of the Idaho Dems, to appoint a place-holder in office, someone not interested in running for the open seat in 2008.
Otter says he considering that because of the very long line of Republicans who've approached him to say they want to be Senator:
...former GOP Idaho Lt. Gov. David Leroy and former GOP state lawmaker Dane Watkins have both told him they’re interested in running for Craig’s seat in 2008. Current Lt. Gov. Jim Risch also is interested, and Otter said he’s "talked quite a bit" with 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson. Otter said if he were to, for example, appoint Risch to the post, then he’d be "making the decision for the Republican Party" before next year’s primary election, giving "a leg up" to his chosen appointee.
Given his well-known antipathy for Risch, he could just be messing with him. Particularly that he's "talked quite a bit" with Mike Simpson, probably the strongest potential GOP candidate for the race. Or he could really be trying to be fair. Otter is unpredictable enough that he could be doing just about anything, and could appoint just about anybody to the seat. If there's an appointment to be made at all.
But we now have the prospect of some of the real heavy-hitters of the Idaho GOP battling it out in a primary next year. And you can probably add to the mix Bill Sali, at least if Mike Simpson is in the race, because his Svengalis at the Club for Growth really hate Simpson and would want to do anything to derail his advancement to the Senate.