BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Republican Rex Rammell said Tuesday the hoopla over his remarks about hunting President Barack Obama has been a boon to his campaign, and he again refused to apologize for what he called a joke.
"This country needs to lighten up," the GOP gubernatorial candidate said during a press conference in a Boise park Tuesday.
Last week, a GOP rally attendee shouted a question about "Obama tags" during discussion of Idaho's upcoming wolf hunt, where hunters must purchase an $11.50 tag as a license to kill a wolf.
Rammell responded, "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."
Idaho's Republican governor and congressional leaders criticized Rammell for his response.
But Rammell said the publicity has been good for his run for office.
"Hopefully, if there's people in Idaho that didn't know me, then they'll know me now. I think I'll come out of this much better off," Rammell told the Rexburg Standard Journal in eastern Idaho, where he lives.
Rammell, a long-shot GOP candidate who as an independent garnered just 5.4 percent of the vote in his 2008 U.S. Senate run, said the condemnation had less to do with his statement and more to do with politics.
"These GOP leaders have jumped all over it to try to ruin my run to be the governor," Rammell said at his Tuesday press conference.
Rammell, a veterinarian and former elk rancher, has said he also blames Democrats and the media for overblowing his comment.
While a defiant Rammell refused to apologize, he said he was sorry if his remark was taken the wrong way.
"If people think I want to assassinate President Obama, I'll apologize for that all day long. That is not my intention," Rammell said. "But I will not apologize for making an innocent comment."
Rammell isn't the first Rexburg resident who has drawn attention for making an anti-Obama comment. In November 2008, second- and third-grade students on a school bus there chanted "Assassinate Obama" after his election, prompting the mayor of the eastern Idaho town to publicly apologize.