Simpson, Smith seek GOP nomination for Congress

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Sometimes it seems U.S. Representative Mike Simpson and GOP primary challenger Bryan Smith are cut from the same cloth.

Listen to them talk about Social Security.

"We have to both protect the promises to those people who are currently on Social Security and Medicare and reform them for future generations," Simpson said.

"We need to keep our commitments to people who are on Social Security but at the same time we also know the Social Security system is headed towards insolvency," Smith said.

But Smith is trying to frame himself as the true conservative in the race, backed by the conservative Club for Growth and the Gem State Tea Party.

But does the Tea Party have the clout it used to? Angry over health care reform, the economy and government spending, the Tea Party movement emerged nationally as a force to be reckoned with in 2010, when it helped republicans retake control of the house.

In the 2012 election, the Tea Party was much less influential causing some political observers to question the party's ability to shape outcomes in the 2014 midterm races.

Generally, it looks at least right now, that the Tea Party influence comes and goes, depending on the issues and public perception of what's going on out there.

John Freemuth, a Boise State political science professor, says don't underestimate Tea Party power, there's always a chance Smith could upset Simpson, who was first elected to congress in 1998.

"It's always possible," Freemuth said.. It's gonna be based on turn out. Who turns out that day. It's an off-year election, so you won't have the presidential election happening. You know darn well Mike Simpson's working to get his supporters out there."

And Bryan Smith's working to get a big Tea Party turn out in the battle for the GOP nomination in Idaho's second congressional district.