Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador is criss-crossing the country stumping for Donald Trump, speaking at Trump rallies so far in Florida, Arizona and Utah.
Labrador’s high-profile national role in the Trump campaign comes despite his lukewarm support for the GOP nominee, whom Labrador has said “wasn’t even in my top 16.” He’d earlier supported Rand Paul and then Ted Cruz.
Then, after meeting Trump along with other House and Senate Republicans in July, Labrador said, “I’m not a huge fan.”
But by mid-October, Labrador issued a written statement saying, “Right now Hillary Clinton is a greater threat to our national well-being than Donald Trump.”
On Wednesday in Miami, Labrador spoke for three and a half minutes ahead of Trump, telling the crowd, “we need to elect somebody that can believe and does believe in the American Dream.”
He shared his personal story about how he grew up in Puerto Rico, according to the Washington Post. Then he said, “I need you to do everything you can for the next seven days to make America great again.”
Layne Bangerter, director of the Trump campaign in Idaho and a senior policy adviser to the campaign for the West, said, “We have a Hispanic western congressman from Idaho and we think it’s wonderful. And if he can be an asset to the campaign, which he surely is, we’re glad that he’s freeing up some of his time.”
Bangerter said he first asked Labrador, on short notice, to appear at a Salt Lake City rally with Trump running mate Mike Pence on Oct. 27. Labrador agreed, and joined other warm-up speakers, including Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Utah GOP Chairman James Evans.
“He just had a powerful message, and they loved him,” Bangerter said of Labrador.
That appearance led to invitations to appear with Donald Trump Jr. at three events in Arizona, including a “millennial rally” at Arizona State University, where Labrador introduced the younger Trump. Bangerter said the congressman “did a great job, he introduced Junior.” Bangerter took Labrador to two other functions in that state.
Then, Labrador joined Trump himself for rallies in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday. Bangerter said he didn’t know what was next on the schedule, but some news reports suggested Labrador will next appear in the battleground state of Ohio, where Trump has a rally scheduled Friday.
Labrador is running for a fourth term in the U.S. House representing Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, which includes North Idaho; he’s also been publicly mulling a run for governor of Idaho in 2018.
Labrador’s Democratic opponent, James Piotrowski, has decried the Idaho congressman for leaving the state in the final weeks of the campaign, rather than campaigning in his district. At a candidate forum Oct. 27 in Cascade, Piotrowski participated, but Labrador was in Salt Lake City.
“He’s more concerned about national politics than he is about the people of Idaho or the 1st District,” Piotrowski said. “He wants to go out and play on that big national stage, ignoring the fact that there are real problems crying out for solutions right here in Idaho.”
Labrador’s campaign said in a statement, “Consistent with his promise to help all Republicans at every level of government, Raul Labrador will take every opportunity to build the Republican Party, both at home in Idaho and across the country. Idahoans must do everything they can to stop the political elite from conducting business as usual in Washington and Boise.”
Bangerter said, “He’s very popular, he’s going to be re-elected, and he’s doing what his constituents would want him to do, too. … He obviously sees this as something his constituents want him doing, and we do – we want him out there.”
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