NPR Story
4:04 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Does Idaho GOP's Inner Turmoil Matter Outside Political Circles?

Members of Idaho’s Democratic Party are set to gather this weekend in Moscow. It’s expected to be a much calmer event than the Republican convention the week before.

That convention left Idaho Republicans still debating who the party chair is after their convention devolved in chaos. And they still don’t have a new platform.

The turmoil has certainly been fodder for national political bloggers. But do platforms, delegates and party chairs actually matter to voters?

“I bet if you asked the Republicans of Idaho most of them wouldn’t even know there was a convention last week,” said Juliet Carlisle, who teaches political science at the University of Idaho.

“These positions are in a lot of ways symbolic," she added. "They don’t do a lot for the average voter.”

Long-time Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby said fractures in the Republican Party might not do a lot for Democrats either.

“That’s one of the problems of a one-party state," he said. "Where they often don’t fear losing in the general election because the minor party isn’t strong enough to take them on.”

But both Weatherby and Carlisle agreed the convention fracas does reveal how deeply Republicans are divided -- and how difficult it is to find compromise between factions.

Carlisle said what is insider baseball now, could mean more down the road if it affects which voters stay home and which turn out.

“We have less a majority of eligible voters turning out for elections," she explained. "And so a group that can mobilize just a few hundred or thousand voters is really going to be able to make an impact.”

For proof, Carlisle pointed to Congressman Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat to a Tea Party favorite in Virginia.

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