Sarah Palin’s presence at an event can draw thousands out to see her speak and evoke emotional responses from those who either love or detest her. It appears her presence will become a divisive force in Idaho politics when she comes Friday to the Qwest Arena to stump for Vaughn Ward, a Marine reservist vying with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick in Idaho's 1st Congressional District. There will be protesters out to oppose her visit, but the group won’t be made up of anti-Palin Democrats; it will consist of anti-Palin Republicans angry over her involvement in local politics and her recent political endorsements. The group is being organized by Lucas Baumbach, a Republican candidate for the Idaho State Senate in District 17.
For Baumbach, an ardent Labrador supporter, the visit isn't so much about Palin's support of Ward, it's about her becoming involved in Idaho politics. "I am disgusted by her interference in local elections," said Baumbach in an e-mail to IdahoReporter.com. "It's abusing her star power to favor Ward over a man she hasn't met."
Palin's endorsement of Ward isn't the only announcement of support that has Baumbauch up in arms. Baumbach said that Palin is pandering to Tea Party crowds, typically more conservative than other groups, while supporting Arizona Sen. John McCain in his re-election bid, a man many conservatives believe is too moderate. Palin was brought to national prominence when McCain chose her as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. He also takes issue with Palin's support of Carly Fiorina, who served as a McCain advisor during his 2008 run at the White House, over Chuck Devore in the race for one of California's U.S. Senate seats. DeVore has received endorsements from several national right-wing figures, including Mark Levin, a nationally-syndicated talk radio host, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., regarded as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and the Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party organization.
Baumbach believes Palin has become corrupted by national politics and is paying back political favors by endorsing those associated with McCain. "Why doesn't she endorse the real conservatives," he said. "Conservative voters and the Tea Party favor Devore and Labrador! It's a classic insider-versus-conservative-base struggle.” Ward served as McCain’s Nevada state campaign director in 2008.
The anti-Palin protest won’t solely consist of Labrador supporters, according to Baumbach, who ran unsuccessfully for Boise City Council in 2009. He believes that many protestors will be like him, former Palin supporters who have flipped on her because of the recent endorsements. “I was a huge fan, because I believe in people who profess their faith. She's a good example of why we need to focus on God not man,” Baumbach. He said that the group could number in the hundreds and will feature some “high-level Republican officials” flying in from north Idaho to attend, though he didn’t give names.
Political party officials often worry that highly controversial and raucous primary elections hurt their candidate’s chances of winning general elections because of splits caused within the electorates during primary season. Baumbach, who believes the Republican Party in Idaho is already a mess, isn’t worried about the effect the protest will have on the GOP’s image. “Sarah's absurd intrusion is just making the division that much worse,” he said. What message does Baumbauch want Palin to hear from him and fellow protesters? “You're ruining the Republican Party, selling your soul to good-old-boy politics,” he said. The protest will begin at 10:30 a.m., only 30 minutes before Palin is scheduled to appear inside the arena. Baumbach said that anyone interested should gather at the corner of 9th and Front streets in downtown Boise. “We’re going to help people understand how destructive she is being,” said Baumbach.
Palin is scheduled for a VIP reception, where the Ward campaign will be charging $250 per person for admittance, at SportsZone, which is near the arena, at 10 a.m. Those who wish to have their picture taken with Palin will be able to do so for $1,000 a piece.