Cup Runneth Over

In his gloomy 2014 forecast for Senate races I discussed in my last post, Jonathan Bernstein did mention my home state of Georgia as a pick-up opportunity, partly to show how sparse such opportunities actually are. But if a viable Democrat runs (the two names popping up most often are that perennial NRCC target, Rep. John Barrow, and civic entrepreneur and political scion Michelle Nunn) and The Crazy prevails among Republicans, there’s enough of a Democratic voter base in the state to make an upset possible.

There are two more signs of The Crazy in today’s news from the Empire State of the South.

State GOP chair Sue Everhart went out of her way to express bizarre fears of same-sex marriage fraud–along with her own “ick! factor” attitudes towards GLBT folk–in comments made to a Georgia newspaper. As Brother Benen noted today, Everhart seems to have watched and internalized the 2007 Adam Sandler flick, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (the kind of “comedy” that triggers my own “ick! factor”). But it illustrates how far out of the rapidly growing mainstream Georgia Republicans are determined to swim.

Then there’s a Roll Call article by Daniel Newhauser about the attacks already being prepared against Rep. Jack Kingston by his righter-than-thou rivals should he enter the Republican Senate primary race:

Candidates in the Georgia Republican Senate primary are jostling for the furthest right starting block in what’s likely to be a crowded race. Already the question is: Can a member of the Appropriations Committee, through which all past spending decisions have traveled, prevail in the new GOP era of fiscal restraint?

Rep. Jack Kingston is the case in point. He’s the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and he’s expected to enter the Senate primary against Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. Rep. Tom Price is touted as a potential candidate as well….

It’s becoming apparent that the knives will be out should the 1st District representative announce his candidacy. Broun said that what distinguishes him from the field is his fealty to constitutionally limited government.

“I think Americans want somebody who is going to reduce the spending,” Broun said in an interview. “So anyone who has voted for bigger government, bigger spending, is going to have troubles in a primary race if they’re running against someone who has the record that I have….”

In the 112th Congress, Broun had the highest rating of any Georgia candidate with Heritage Action for America, a conservative grass-roots activist group, which gave him a 96 percent score. Kingston scored lowest, at 71 percent.

Ultimately, George primary voters will judge whose argument has more credence. Joel McElhannon, a Peach State political consultant who is not affiliated with any candidate, said Kingston is at a natural disadvantage, but money, advertising and outside group involvement will decide whether the attacks stick.

“Is spending and debt and the overall economy going to be the overwhelming issue in this race? Yes,” McElhannon said. “So Jack has something to overcome there. … This issue of being an appropriator, of your track record of spending in your time in Congress … that’s really going to come into focus in this race.”

But hey, Kingston will have some powerful defenders if Broun, Gingrey or Price go after him as an appropriator:

There is evidence that Kingston may have some backup, though. Outside groups have pledged to counter attacks by candidates they perceive as too conservative to win a general election, as was the case last year with the disastrous Senate bids of ex-Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and state treasurer Richard Mourdock in Indiana.

The Republican Main Street Partnership works to elect center-right candidates to the House. Its president, former Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio, said he can envision GOP strategist Karl Rove getting involved as well with his political action committee, American Crossroads.

“To attack an appropriator for spending too much money is kind of on the ridiculous side,” said LaTourette, a former appropriator. “In my opinion, it’d be a cheap shot and the way you push back against that is to take them to task.”

If, God forbid, I were advising one of Georgia’s wingnut candidates for the Senate, there’s no limit to the effort I’d make to encourage LaTourette and Rove to get involved in this primary on behalf of Kingston. Georgia Republican primary voters are not in the mood to let Republican Establishment “outside agitators” tell them what to do, nossireebob.

In any event, Georgia Democrats’ cup runneth over in the developing GOP crazy-fest. It will take skill and luck for them to pick off this Senate seat, but every time a major Republican figure in the state opens his or her mouth, the odds get a little better.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.