NPR Visits Idaho To Cover Simpson-Smith Congressional Race

Jan 20, 2014

The GOP primary race between Republicans Rep. Mike Simpson and Bryan Smith in Idaho's 2nd congressional district is attracting national attention. NPR will report from the state this week and plans to follow the race over the next few months.

The race between Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, and Bryan Smith has NPR's  attention.  Morning Edition co-host David Greene will be in Idaho this week to report on the story for a national audience.

Simpson has been elected to Congress eight times.  But he’s facing a challenge this year from the most conservative wing of the GOP. Greene says the Idaho race represents a microcosm of what’s happening with the Republican Party nationally.

“We started talking to a lot of the members of our political team about ‘where are the races that will help us tell this story?,’” Greene says. “The 2nd congressional district in Idaho kept coming up. It’s a place where Mike Simpson has been a congressman for a long time. He’s very close to John Boehner and he’s seen as having lot of close ties to the establishment in the Republican Party. And Bryan Smith is a Tea Party-backed candidate who seems to be generating a lot of enthusiasm among the Tea Party nationally.”

Greene and producer Arnie Seipel will be in Idaho for five days, starting Monday. They’re not coming with pre-determined stories in mind, but rather will report what they learn from talking with voters.

“We’re coming with a lot of questions and we just really want to be listeners,” Greene says. “What does Mike Simpson need to do to hold on to this seat? Who supports him? Who supports Bryan Smith? How much money is coming from elsewhere in the country? What do people in Idaho think of their race having national implications and generating so much interest from the outside? What are the issues in this state that this race will come down to?” 

Idaho politics rarely generate much national interest where the Republican party dominates the political landscape. But Greene says he’s looking forward to getting off the political beaten path.

NPR's David Greene.
Credit NPR

“Often times when we’re reporting in election years, we tend to go to familiar places,” he says. “Iowa, Ohio, Florida – places that are swing states in general elections. We were really excited about coming to a state that we don’t visit that often when it comes to politics.”

Greene and Seipel have made calls to Idaho political experts and others ahead of their trip. A recurring theme is the importance of land to Idahoans and how that affects the state’s politics. It’s something Greene has just begun to grasp.

“Being someone from Pittsburgh and who lives in Washington D.C., I’m not used to wide open spaces,” he says. “So to come to Idaho and listen to people talk about the land…really gets me jazzed.”

Greene and Seipel are scheduled to fly to Idaho Falls Monday. Their first report is scheduled to air nationally on Morning Edition (4 to 9 a.m. on KBSX 91.5 FM) Thursday.

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio