Jul 22 2012
Gabe Osterhout is a young man in a hurry. And hes getting somewhere. Fast.
At age 10, he wore a John Kerry mask for Halloween. At 16, he worked on Gov. Butch Otters re-election campaign dialing for dollars, licking envelopes and setting up for tailgates. At 17, he was a page in the Idaho House and gave a graduation speech at Capital High School, reminding classmates of his aim to be governor.
Now 18, Osterhout will be a page at the Republican National Convention in Florida next month, the only Idahoan in the bunch.
Of all the pages Ive ever known, he has the best affinity for politics, said House Chief Clerk Bonnie Alexander. When he left, I said, Gabe, you need to pursue this.
Osterhout hardly needed the nudge. Capital High Principal Jon Ruzicka nicknamed Osterhout Governor after he job-shadowed Otter in 2010.
Osterhout, who will be in Tampa Aug. 24-31, doesnt know his assignment yet, but hes hoping to get close to the bigwigs he sees on TV. When you shake hands and meet people and network, that comes in handy later on, he said.
His ambition is a bit of a puzzle to his parents, Darin and Barb Osterhout.
Were kind of apolitical, said Barb, a speech pathologist at the VA Medical Center. But he looks a lot like us, so I know hes ours.
Osterhout learned his state capitals in third grade and memorized the location of every country his sophomore year. Hell tell you that the first Republican convention, in 1856, nominated John Fremont, that the last contested convention was Gerald Ford-Ronald Reagan in 1976, and that President Barack Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes in 2008.
Gabe is mr. High School Republican in the entire state, said former Idaho GOP Executive Director Jonathan Parker, who helped Osterhout get the page gig. we notice those people who are in the trenches doing the grunt work for the party and our candidates. Thats something that will pay off for Gabe.
In his graduation speech, Osterhout urged his classmates to consider a twist on a popular acronym, YOLO, for you only live once. Rather than an excuse for questionable behavior, Osterhout said, YOLO should mean something noble.
if you only live once, that means you only have one chance to change the world, he said.
Osterhout was big on baseball until he didnt make the JV team as a sophomore, so he refocused on school and politics. Hes taken up hockey just recently. I can skate, I cant stop, he said.
His parents, fearing he was too serious, insisted that he go to the senior prom, the only dance he attended in high school. he kidded them that he formed an exploratory committee to find his date.
Unlike many young people, Osterhout sees politics both as a force for good and a cool profession. his ambition was sparked in 2008 when he watched auto industry CEOs get grilled by congressmen for flying private jets to Washington to beg for bailouts.
Thats when I thought politicians were the smartest guys in the world and I wanted to be as witty, Osterhout remembers.
Since then, hes learned about business and finance as a three-time state champion in DECA, an international association of marketing students.
Osterhout interned for Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador for five months this year, winning the affection of his supervisor, Lisa Anderson.
we get a lot of misdirected anger, and most interns dont want to talk on the phone, Anderson said. Gabe was good with it from Day one. he could talk on a vast variety of subjects. it was amazing.
Osterhout says hes a Republican because hes a fiscal conservative. Thats despite being a distant cousin of Obamas, a fact disclosed by Osterhouts dad.
you always hear politicians saying, Were going to pass this debt onto our children, Gabe Osterhout said. Well, I am the children. I mean, Ill fix the mess if I have to, but Id really like to get that deficit figured out now.
Darin Osterhout said the oldest of his three children has long had preternatural qualities.
Hes been 40 since he was 15, jokes Darin. Hes always been so responsible and a person of integrity.
Darin recently was promoted to manage the Boise branch of Graybar, an electrical and telecommunications supplier. a salesman for 24 years, Darin was anxious about being prepared for the job. Then he attended Capitals graduation, where Gabe was one of two speakers chosen by his peers.
The talk included a riff on risk-taking, citing the failures that preceded fame for Disney, Edison and Lincoln.
Heres my 17-year-old giving this speech and Im worried about failing, Darin said.
Osterhout turned 18 last week. his favorite gifts: airfare to Tampa and a portrait of GOP presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ford and both George H.W. and George Bush playing poker with Lincoln.
He is using graduation money and savings from working in the House to pay hotel and other expenses in Tampa. All he expects from the GOP is a tie and a T-shirt.
His parents worry that his boasting hell be governor might be a setup for failure. But at the close of a long interview, Osterhout lamented a disappointing college entrance exam score and spoke of aspiring to attend an Ivy League law or business school afterC of I, saying, I might not even be interested in politics by then.
Osterhout jokingly says that hes more than a test-taker. so listen up, Ivies: if those schools knew that I know more about current events than anyone this side of the Mississippi, or this side of the Mason-Dixon Line, or this side of the 49th Parallel maybe I could go to an Ivy League school, even with those test scores.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics