Smith’s Tea Party backers mock cardboard cutout of Idaho Rep. Simpson in video

A key supporter of challenger Bryan Smith plays the role of Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson in a new 6-minute YouTube video produced last week at a Gem State Tea Party meeting in Boise.

The video was touted on Twitter and in an email Wednesday by Barney Keller, the spokesman for Club for Growth, which could raise over $1 million on Smith’s behalf for the May 2014 GOP primary.

Standing with a cardboard cutout of Simpson, former Idaho Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck portrays the eight-term congressman in a town hall parody. Simpson has not held any open-mic town halls during the August recess, a decision criticized by Smith supporters.

Beck takes eight questions from the audience and portrayed Simpson as having just one answer to any question, relevant or not: Simpson’s power as a “cardinal,” an Appropriations subcommittee chairman who can “bring the bacon home to Idaho.”

One questioner asks Beck: “How does a person who does not have a birth certificate, does not have a Social Security card, does not have a Selective Service registration card, does not have a driver’s license become president of the United States?”

Replies Beck: “I’m a cardinal! You want me to keep bringing home the bacon, you gotta vote for Mike Simpson!”

Beck said Wednesday that he was drafted to play Simpson by Gem State Tea Party founder Chad Inman, who also is president of Tea Party Boise. Beck said he didn’t know his performance was intended for YouTube, but said he didn’t mind.

“It’s a joke,” Beck said. “It’s a parody. I was just having fun.”

The important point, Beck said, was knocking Simpson’s decision not to hold any town halls. Beck also said Simpson’s being one of 12 Appropriations subcommittee chairmen could well prove to be a liability. “It highlights the insider ruling class against the grass roots,” Beck said.

Beck said he doesn’t speak for the Smith campaign. His brother, Bonneville County Chairman Doyle Beck, is a leading contributor to Smith and provided the Idaho Falls lawyer a private aircraft for his trip across the district announcing his candidacy in June.

State Sen. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, was at the meeting at Fuddruckers and said the audience loved Beck’s bit. But Thayn doubts the effectiveness of such tactics. “It was like a bachelor party with people hooting and hollering,” Thayn said. “But no, that’s not a winning strategy.”

Thayn said he has advised Smith that he needs a positive message.

“I told him being negative in the district he’s in won’t work,” Thayn said. “I think he needs to stake out what he’s in favor of. Conservatives need to have a plan to solve problems.”

Thayn said he hasn’t decided on whether to support Smith. “I’m not in any hurry to jump into that race. I think he’s a legitimate challenger, but I’m waiting to see what his platform is.”

Carrie Brown, Smith’s campaign manager, provided this statement in response to my request for comment:

“Bryan has been criss crossing the district from Idaho Falls to Boise to get his message of positive fiscal conservatism out to the people of Idaho’s second congressional district. We are glad to have the support of many Republican voters across the district who know we need a change, and we will be happy to debate Congressman Simpson as frequently as possible on the issues facing Idaho and our nation.”

Simpson campaign manager Brody Aston declined comment.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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