The odds of Larry Craig's retirement from the U.S. Senate have just increased exponentially, which has got to be exceedingly embarrassing for his former staffers who went so far as to put together a Draft Craig for Senate campaign earlier this month.
But where the embarrassment really has to lie is with Dan Popkey and the Idaho Statesman. Back in March, I wrote about an impending story from that paper.
I suspect that much is waiting on what one man has to say about Craig: Dan Popkey, political columnist for the Idaho Statesman. It's an open secret in the state that Popkey has been working on a big story for several weeks now, and that story is about Craig. From what I've heard, just about everybody in Idaho politics has heard from Popkey, and he's been to D.C., as well. The focus of all this investigating by Popkey is apparently Craig's personal life since he got married and the rumors of his homosexuality--a heretofore evaded topic in Idaho's local press. The story could be a lot clearer in a week or two when Popkey's column is published.
Popkey worked on this story for months, absent from the state for the critical legislative session, and not writing anything else for the entire winter and spring. The story wasn't published back in March, and hasn't been published yet. The last news I heard on this story was that Craig and his lawyer had met with the publishers and their lawyers and since then, it's been "with the lawyers." Meaning, as kos posted earlier, effectively spiked. Which leads to some speculation about who leaked the story to Roll Call, and how did the Statesman completely miss this one? Could Popkey be trying to shake the story loose, finally? Did he tip off Roll Call? Or, since this was leaked to a Hill newspaper, did it come from someone on the Hill, like maybe from the office of an Idaho House member who might be thinking about moving up?
So now that the Statesman and Popkey have been made to look the fools by Roll Call, will they publish the story? That decision has the potential to determine whether Craig resigns immediately, or just announces his retirement. My gut says he's going to resign; his being gay wasn't a problem for the Idaho GOP just as long as they didn't "really know" he was gay and didn't have to think about it. Now that it's been exposed, and it's all over the local news according to my sources in Idaho (well, ok, according to mcmom), the pressure is mostly certainly going to be on him. One conservative Idaho blogger is already calling for his resignation.
Craig's self-defense is so lame, that he's unlikely to win much support among Idaho conservatives:
"At the time of the incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
So assuming that Popkey and the Statesman finally spill the beans and publish, and Craig is forced to resign, where does the Idaho GOP go now? The order of succession in Idaho GOP politics would pretty much require that Gov. Butch Otter name his Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who's been practically foaming at the mouth for this seat in what many Idahoans considered a rather unseemly display. Otter, however, hates Risch, and the two are currently at contretemps that threaten to engulf the whole state party. Maybe they patch things up, or Otter figures he'd rather have Risch on the other side of the continent, and Risch gets the nod, effectively blocking out most other comers.
However, the last open federal seat in Idaho was ID-01, which brought out a raft of Republicans wanting a better job (Idaho has more Republicans than can fill the slots elected offices, so the spill-over is often astounding). Sali rode the Club for Growth's bank account to victory with just 26% of the vote in that six-way primary. We might just see another Republican food fight, and one that very well could include Bill Sali.
So, once again, all Idaho eyes are on Dan Popkey.
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