Okay, okay; the title is a bit “cute” and we are barely less than two years away from the 2014 mid-term election cycle. I know that several people have grown tired, already, of the constant discussion on future elections even though we just got done with one earlier this month.
But then again, there are several of interesting storylines that may or may not come to fruition yet are still worth time. While 2014 may be two years away, there does appear to be some jockeying for position going on even today.
In Georgia, there is something interesting going on right now when it comes to two-term incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss, who is clearly the most like incumbent Senator to face a Tea Party challenger, has been making some…interesting statements recently.
However today, Chambliss defied anti-tax activist and notable Tea Party honcho Grover Norquist. Norquist, who is most prominent for his Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which basically is a petition that people sign who oppose all income tax hikes. The pledge has been a source of some controversy within itself as some believe that Norquist leads the Republican Party like “puppets”.
I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss, who signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” when he first ran for Senate. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.
Now that’s not quite the language someone uses if they want to fend off a primary challenge? With the noise coming from ex-senior Vice President of Susan G. Komen Karen Handel and Tom Price about potentially running, are Chambliss’s days numbered?
First off, Chambliss’s newfound independence shouldn’t really make liberals and progressives clap for him. Let’s not forget that in the 2002 Senate race, Chambliss ran an ad against Democrat and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland (a triple-amputee) which had Cleland featured with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. This is not a man who might end up a thorn in the GOP’s side like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins or Scott Brown.
Chambliss earns a 0% rating from the NARAL Pro-Choice America (aka as pro-life as one can get) and earns a lifetime 93% score from the American Conservative Union. This is not some moderate GOP Senator who swings towards the middle every time an election is near. He is a pure conservative.
But why is Chambliss mostly unpopular amongst the right?
Activists and donors alike are expressing dissatisfaction with Chambliss for his perceived move to the left of issues like immigration and taxes.
Yes, that’s why Saxby Chambliss is earning “dissatisfaction” amongst his base. For moving to the “left” on immigration and taxes. Taxes? Paging Grover Norquist.
So the key to earning “dissatisfaction” from the right is to basically spurn Grover Norquist and just CONSIDER the idea of raising the income tax on the top 2% of the country. That’s it. Vilifying Norquist is the one surefire way to earn a primary challenge if you are an incumbent Republican.
But this race is the most interesting of all the races for now. Not because the Democrats have a shot (though if the DNC/DSCC can convince Cleland or Rep. John Barrow to run it gets interesting) but maybe we are witnessing the end of the Tea Party rule in Congress.
Chambliss will face a primary challenge, whether it’s Handel, Price, Rep. Westmoreland, Broun or Graves. It’s also likely that the primary challenger will get plenty of help and support from Norquist, FreedomWorks and maybe even Jim DeMint. Chambliss will have the RNC on his side for the interim but this race will test to see how much the GOP can help their chosen candidate during a contested primary.
If Chambliss loses to Handel, hypothetically, the GOP is likely to have walked into another Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock situation. Handel, who barely lost the GOP primary for Governor in 2010, has strengthened her pro-life credentials after her very well-known attacks on Planned Parenthood. But Handel hasn’t been battle-tested in a contested race. If the Democrats can find a pro-choice candidate, such as Cleland, then this race would be one of the best (if the only) pick-up opportunities for the Democrats in 2014.
Yet what about Tom Price? Price is clearly the favorite of the Tea Party right if he were to win and has already gone toe-to-toe with establishment over a potential leadership position before. If Price were to win, then you’ll have to see what he says during the primary and maybe even after to see if the Republicans can sweat out a victory.
But what if all of this is just bluster and Chambliss wins due to a fractured right vote? He’ll be bloodied, yes, but he’ll likely be the prohibitive favorite in a hypothetical rematch. Chambliss isn’t wildly popular but given Georgia’s red tint (though there’s some hope it’s turning purple), it’d be a bit difficult to unseat him. If we are to go off the fact that midterm elections are usually not great for the dominant party (that being the Democrats), then the odds of a Chambliss re-election improves substantially.
Yet if Chambliss wins, he would’ve done it by openly defying Grover Norquist. If he wins while verbally sparring with the anti-tax activist, in a red state, then the Republican Party might’ve finally laid to rest the Tea Party Movement (at least electorally). But if he loses? It shows that the Republican Party is probably best staying away from primaries and just endorsing whomever wins.
Again though, as I alluded to in the Election News Dump very recently, the Democrats need to get a top-tier contender in this race. Overtures have to be made to Cleland or to Barrow because outside of those two, the Georgia bench is notoriously weak. The recruiting effort in Georgia could save the Democratic Party majority in the Senate so the Democrats can handle the likely loss or two that they’ll suffer.
Sure it’s less than two years away, but keep an eye on what’s going on in Georgia. This could very well be the climax to the establishment vs. Tea Party war.