President Barack Obama to visit Idaho for first time since 2008 campaign stop

Associated Press

President Barack Obama is headed to Idaho for the first time since a 2008 campaign stop and could touch on anything from tax reform to immigration, depending on Tuesday's State of the Union address.

Obama is scheduled to fly into Boise, where he will be greeted by Lt. Gov. Brad Little, on Wednesday. The lieutenant governor is going on behalf of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who is recovering from surgery.

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Obama will then give a speech on the Boise State University campus.

Idaho is just one of four states the president has yet to visit in his six years in office. After Wednesday, Obama will still have been absent from South Dakota, South Carolina and Utah.

The last time a sitting president visited Idaho was in 2005, when President George W. Bush visited Nampa and Tamarack Resort. President Bill Clinton stopped by the Gem State in 2000 to tour one of the dozen wildfires raging across 11 Western states.

Politically, Idaho's deep red roots have long pushed the state in favor of the Republican candidate during presidential elections. In 2012, when Obama ran for his second term, he won just 32.6 percent of the vote in Idaho. In 2008, he won 36 percent.

The last time Idaho swung Democratic in a presidential election was in 1964, when voters chose Lyndon B. Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater.

However, despite Idaho's distance from the political elite in Washington, D.C., nearly every sitting president since Johnson has visited Idaho at least once during their term. Past presidents also have flocked to the state to enjoy its renowned fishing, hunting and breathtaking western scenery.

Jimmy Carter rafted the Middle Fork of the Salmon River for three days while in office after Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, former Idaho governor, invited him and his family. After his term, Gerald Ford vacationed in Sun Valley to ski and golf.

Ronald Reagan visited Idaho several times while president, twice to help campaign for Sen. Steve Symms.

"I have a photo of when Franklin Roosevelt visited Idaho in 1937," said Steve Shaw, political science professor at Northwest Nazarene University. "People still talk about that day. When a president visits your state, it's partly political and partly symbolic."

Shaw said Idaho's Democratic Party should take advantage of the president's visit to build its clout and attract not only more members but outside donors. On the other hand, Idaho's super-majority Republican Party can also use this moment to take comfort that their base can catch the eye of a Democratic president.