14TH AMENDMENT NONSENSE REACHES INTO NEW ENGLAND…. It’s getting tough to keep track of all the Republicans who are looking askance at the 14th Amendment. Yesterday, Amanda Terkel noted that Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John McCain (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Texas), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) “all back holding hearings on the issue.”

Over the weekend, the position gained additional GOP support, with endorsements from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).

But it’s not just Republican officials who are worth keeping an eye on — Republican candidates who hope to have a vote on this deserve scrutiny, too.

For example, consider former New Hampshire Attorney General candidate Kelly Ayotte (R), the frontrunner in this year’s U.S. Senate race in the Granite State. Just this morning, a voter asked Ayotte about “rewriting that 14th amendment or rewording it.” The Senate hopeful replied:

“Well, I know that there’s a number of proposals that are being brought forward right now to look at that issue. And I think that we should. Because one of the issues is we have to, obviously, when we look at our Constitution, if we’re going to propose any changes to it we have to be very thoughtful and careful about that because it’s a great document. But that said, we have people who are coming here just to become, to get healthcare and then leave. And they’re not even being part of our society and there’s something wrong with that.”

When sentences about the Constitution include phrases like, “It’s a great document, but…” you know there’s a problem.

In a general sense, it really is remarkable to see the speed with which a fringe idea can become the standard GOP talking point for officials and candidates. But in the case of Ayotte, it’s even more striking. She is, after all, supposed to be something of a moderate. Indeed, she’s running in a moderate state in New England — the nation’s least conservative region.

And now Kelly Ayotte wants to consider changes to the 14th Amendment — among Senate candidates, there is now no real difference between Ayotte’s position and that of extremist Sharron Angle — as she accepts support from polarizing right-wing figures such as former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

Those who hoped Ayotte could be a mainstream voice for the GOP have every reason to be disappointed in what’s become of her campaign. She’s quickly proving herself to be just another Republican, too afraid of extremists to do the right thing.

And in the larger context, as the desire among key GOP figures to tinker with the 14th Amendment grows, it’s hard to overstate how disheartening it is to see what’s become of the modern Republican Party.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.