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Eye on Boise: Did Jim Risch endorse Ted Cruz or not?

When Idaho Sen. Jim Risch made one of his frequent appearances last week on CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer, he kind of endorsed Ted Cruz for president – but just kind of.

Risch first said he hadn’t endorsed another candidate since his favored one, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, dropped out. But then he said as a “matter of pragmatics,” he sees Cruz as the only remaining choice. Risch said, “It is stunning the defeat that Donald Trump would face against Hillary Clinton, it probably would be epic and historical.” He added, “Obviously, Kasich is so far behind it’s impossible really for him to get the numbers; so by process of elimination that gets you to Ted Cruz. At this point, there’s no choice.”

That prompted Blitzer to respond: “So far, you’re only, I think, by our count the third senator, Republican senator, who now effectively on this program has come out and endorsed Cruz. Lindsay Graham and Mike Lee, your colleagues, they have, but I haven’t seen a whole lot.” Risch interrupted, “Did I just endorse, Wolf?” Blitzer responded, “I don’t know. You sort of said you prefer him over the other two.”

Risch said, “I do.” And Blitzer said, “That sounds like an endorsement, doesn’t it?”

Risch’s response: “I guess it depends on your definition.”

The exchange prompted Politico to publish a story headlined, “Sen. Jim Risch isn’t sure if he just endorsed Ted Cruz.”

On Friday, I asked Risch if he had, or had not, endorsed Cruz. “You need to talk to Wolf Blitzer about that, ’cause he’s the one that said I endorsed him,” Risch responded. “I never used the word ‘endorse’; he did.”

Risch said he hasn’t endorsed Cruz. “No, I haven’t,” he said. “You’ve never seen me use the word ‘endorse.’ Having said all that, my preference obviously is for Cruz at this point. It depends on what you mean by endorse. Am I going to go door-to-door for him handing out literature? Probably not.”

Risch’s sort-of endorsement made the late-night comedy shows last week. Stephen Colbert played a clip in which Blitzer asks Risch, “So, you want Ted Cruz to get the Republican nomination?” and Risch responds, “At this point, there’s no choice.”

“It’s that kind of passion that inspired the new campaign slogan,” Colbert declared, “Ted Cruz: Abandon all hope!” Then he got in another zinger about the “definition of endorsement.” Colbert also described our state’s junior senator as “Idaho senator and inappropriately chipper funeral director Jim Risch.”

Labrador raps ‘poor leadership’ in D.C.

First District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador kicked off his re-election campaign with two $50-a-plate fundraisers, one in Coeur d’Alene at the Idaho Wildlife Museum in Riverstone that drew 90 people, and the other a luncheon on the 17th floor of the Zions Bank building in Boise that drew 188. There were also various levels of sponsorship for donors giving more.

During his Boise speech, Labrador had harsh words for his Washington, D.C., colleagues. “Today’s political climate in Washington is the result of poor leadership,” he said, “but it’s not just the leadership of Obama, it’s the leadership of both parties that I think has been poor over the last few years.”

Labrador, who is seeking a third two-year term in the House, said, “There’s too many politicians that are worried about their next election, instead of worrying about their next generation. They’re more worried about maintaining power.”

“I believe that’s why 62 percent of Republicans feel betrayed. I think that has created a vacuum in this nation that is now being filled by Donald Trump,” Labrador said. “But in my opinion, Trump is playing to our fears and our anger. And that’s not the type of leadership that I think we need. Unfortunately, it could be the type of leadership we deserve, if we don’t become better leaders as members of Congress and as politicians.”

He also said, “The leadership principles I learned while I was in the Idaho Legislature can and should be effective in Washington.”

Three Democrats and two Republicans are running on the primary ballot in addition to Labrador, but two of those candidates live in California. His lone in-state challenger in the GOP primary is Gordon Counsil of Caldwell. In the Democratic primary, Boise attorney James Piotrowski faces Staniela Nikolova of Moscow.

Um, which state?

Labrador was introduced at his Boise event by Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson, who had traveled from Salt Lake City for the event. Praising Labrador, Anderson said, “I think he’s a great benefit for the country; I think he’s a great benefit for the state of Utah.” Amid murmurs in the crowd of “Idaho,” Anderson continued without correcting himself, calling Labrador a “great congressman.”

Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and posts to the Eye on Boise blog. She can be reached at (208) 336-2854 or by email at betsyr@spokesman.com.