Friday, October 24th, 2014

Pelosi looms large in GOP race for House seat in ... Idaho

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been the surprise star of several campaign ads in strongly Republican Idaho.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been the surprise star of several campaign ads in strongly Republican Idaho.

We haven’t seen a poll of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s popularity in Idaho, but based on the political ads airing there, we’d venture that she’s not popular among conservative primary voters.

In one of the nation’s more unusual tea party vs. establishment primary battles, eight-term Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, faces a tough primary challenge in his bid for another term. Simpson faces attorney Bryan Smith, who gained national notoriety when he became the first candidate the conservative Club for Growth decided to fund through a crowdsourcing campaign.

The primary election is on May 20.

For the super PACs supporting Simpson and Smith, the air wars over the past month have focused to an odd degree on Pelosi, a liberal Californian from the opposite party. (We mentioned Simpson and Smith are both Republicans, right?)

In the past, Democrats in challenging districts have often faced questions about the strength of their allegiance to Pelosi, the leader of their party. But in solidly Republican Idaho, where the primary contest is essentially a race to the right, even Republicans are finding themselves linked to Pelosi.

We looked at two ads from Super PACs airing in the race: one from the Madison Action Fund, which supports Smith, and another from Simpson backer Defending Main Street.

The Madison Action Fund went so far as to claim Simpson was a "liberal." The proof?

"Simpson voted with Nancy Pelosi to bail out Wall Street," the ad claimed. "That wasnt enough spending for Mike Simpson, so he joined Pelosi in voting to take more of your money to fund sex study programs of San Francisco prostitutes. Simpson also joined Pelosi in voting to regulate the sale of firearms."

Fighting words, for sure.

We compared Simpson’s voting record to Pelosi’s and found that they’ve only voted together 29 percent of the time. Even Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- nobody’s idea of a liberal -- voted with Pelosi 24 percent of the time.

The rest of the ad cited House votes from more than a decade ago and mischaracterized the bills in question. We awarded the ad a rating of Pants on Fire.

Meanwhile, the ad by the group Defending Main Street is built around a clip of Club for Growth president Chris Chocola speaking positively of Pelosi. How positively?

"The person I respect the most in Washington might surprise you: It’s Nancy Pelosi," Chocola said.

Smoking gun? Not so fast.

The ad takes Chocola’s statements out of context. Chocola, a former GOP representative from Indiana, was expressing admiration for Pelosi’s Machiavellian tactics, not for the specifics of her political agenda. We rated it Mostly False.