Labrador backed Hayworth, ripped McCain

June 30, 2010

Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador, already struggling to win national Republican support for his challenge to Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, isn’t backing away from harshly critical comments he made about his party’s 2008 presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain.

Labrador won his party’s nomination in an upset against Vaughn Ward, a veteran who was endorsed by McCain after serving as the Arizona senator’s Nevada state director in 2008. During a debate in late April, Labrador tore into McCain as an expedient and calculating politician.

“McCain is the problem with the Republican Party,” Labrador said to applause. “McCain is the kind of individual who is willing to compromise his principles in order to get a result. And I will tell you, I will never compromise my principles to get elected,” Labrador said, according to a recording provided to POLITICO by a Democratic source.

Labrador’s comments came in response to a question at the Canyon County Republican Women’s debate, about whether he would support an Arizona-style immigration law, and who he would support in the Senate primary between McCain and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

Labrador left no doubt about his preference.

“I would not support McCain in Arizona. In fact, I would support J.D.,” he said. “J.D. is actually a conservative, principled individual. I was not the one who was McCain’s campaign manager.”

“I ended up voting for him,” Labrador continued. “But he was not my first choice in the last election.”

China Gum, a spokeswoman for Labrador, did little to walk back the candidate’s remarks, noting only that Labrador had voted for the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 while Minnick has supported Democrats for president, including Barack Obama.

“Raul Labrador has voted for all Republican presidential candidates as did the overwhelming majority of Idaho voters in the 1st Congressional District,” said Gum. “So who best represents the 1st CD? The conservative Raul Labrador or the smooth Walt Minnick?”

Minnick campaign manager John Foster fired back at Labrador’s camp, taking McCain’s side.

“Walt would never — as Labrador has done — question the ethics and principles of an American hero who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war,” Foster said.

McCain is not the only leading Republican that Labrador has criticized in his campaign for comments. Just days ago, an audio recording surfaced with remarks Labrador made hitting House Minority Leader John Boehner and GOP leaders in Washington for not stopping the Democratic electoral wave in 2008. His comments about both Boehner and McCain set him further at odds with Washington Republicans already skeptical about his odds against the well-funded Minnick.

Labrador was not among the Republican candidates promoted in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program Wednesday, even though the conservative district he’s running in should be a top pickup opportunity. Last weekend, incumbent Idaho Gov. Butch Otter made no mention of Labrador in a speech at the state GOP convention, even as he praised Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo, both of whom are up for election this fall.

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