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Presidential stump a rarity for region

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Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 3:49 pm


A presidential candidate visiting Tribune territory is so rare, you have to talk to a baby boomer to get an anecdote about their encounter with any White House hopeful.

When Ron Paul takes the stage in Moscow Friday, he will be the first presidential candidate in at least three decades to visit north central Idaho or southeastern Washington. You can get details of Paul’s visit in today’s Tribune"> here.

It’s called the people’s house, so why have so few people seeking digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. bothered to meet some of the people here in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington?

The last visits many in Lewiston can remember are either by former Idaho Sen. Frank Church during his run for the White House in the 1976 Democratic primaries or by former Kansas Sen. Robert Dole during either a vice presidential run in 1976 or a Republican primary presidential run in 1980.

Dole would later return to speak at the"> Idaho Republican convention in 1994 while serving as the U.S. Senate minority leader, two years before his final run for the presidency, but not as an active candidate.

Does the lack of visits have to do with the response they get? Then-Vice President Walter Mondale was the last sitting president or vice president to visit the region when the Democrat talked to Pullman-area farmers in 1978. One of the headlines in the Tribune the following day read:,3587367&dq=walter+mondale+lewiston&hl=en"> Farmers call speech: “Waste of time.”

Granted, rural Lewis and Clark country is anything but a bastion of votes. Candidates routinely visit Boise, Seattle and Spokane on the campaign trail so they get their message out to the largest number of voters in population centers and via local television stations.

But local turnout, while dismal during">">city council elections, has been pretty amazing in presidential years. Nez Perce County tallied 83.55 percent voter turnout in">">2008 and 85.64 percent in">">2004.

Friday’s visit by Paul, the Texas congressman whose Libertarian-leaning views have garnered him a rabid following among a certain segment of young and rural voters, is happening amid Idaho’s increasing clout as a Super Tuesday Republican nominating contest March 6. Washington’s caucus is also in the mix just three days earlier.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum stopped Tuesday for visits in Coeur d’Alene and Boise. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will make an appearance Friday in Boise. Paul also appeared in Twin Falls today, and will speak in Richland, Spokane and Boise in between his stop in Moscow.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only Republican presidential hopeful not to schedule an Idaho stop.

It would be great to see more of these candidates come and talk to the people, considering we’re talking about the people’s house they’re after.

Follow me on Twitter!/bwgary">@bwgary for the latest in Lewiston and Nez Perce County news.

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