Romney backs Simpson in first ad of 2014

Mitt Romney appeared Tuesday in a new television ad endorsing Rep. Mike Simpson's (R-Idaho) reelection bid.

The ad, paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, comes amid a burgeoning primary challenge from attorney Bryan Smith, who has been endorsed by a variety of Tea Party-affiliated groups. It was released on the heels of a Club for Growth ad on Monday hammering Simpson for voting for the TARP bank bailout in 2008.

The ad is Romney’s first in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal, though the former Republican presidential candidate had already endorsed Simpson last year.

Romney’s ad aims to shore up Simpson’s conservative credentials, without making any mention of the primary challenge. Romney credits Simpson with battling against wasteful spending, trying to stop “junk” lawsuits, and fighting to repeal ObamaCare.

“You can take it from me, the conservative choice for Congress is Mike Simpson.”

Romney, the first Mormon presidential candidate, may carry more weight in Idaho than in most states. Mormons constitute over one-fifth of the state’s population. Simpson himself is a Mormon as well.

The ad is part of a broader effort by the Chamber to protect pro-business Republicans from insurgents on the right. The group said in December that it planned to spend $50 million to protect establishment Republicans from primary challenges.

Idaho’s second congressional district is solidly Republican, and backed Romney over President Obama by more than 30 percentage points in 2012, so whoever triumphs in the May 20 primary is a near-lock to take the seat in November.