Now that nearly a week’s gone by since Georgia’s Senate Republican runoff, the belief is beginning to set in that the crucial factor leading to David Perdue’s upset win over Jack Kingston was right-wing anger at the Chamber of Commerce. It was most notably fed by Perdue’s last-minute ad draping the Chamber’s past support for “amnesty” around Kingston’s neck. But word among the cognoscenti is that a not-insignificant factor was conservative activist fury at the Chamber’s role in the Great Mississippi Scandal of 2014, wherein the righteous were thwarted by a Corrupt Bargain between Thad Cochran and those people. Here’s Jim Galloway’s take for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Last month’s U.S. Senate race in Mississippi saw GOP incumbent Thad Cochran survive a tea-party assault, aided by the U.S. Chamber – plus thousands of black Democrats lured into the Republican runoff.
In the weeks that followed, political observers wondered if Cochran’s success would have implications here.
Last Tuesday brought the answer. Mississippi indeed sparked ideas in Georgia’s Republican runoff for Senate — just not the ones you might think.
Snubbed by the powerful business group, former Dollar General CEO David Perdue used antipathy toward the U.S. Chamber and its Mississippi adventure to pry apart an alliance of Republican stalwarts and tea partyers that Jack Kingston, the Savannah congressman, was about to ride to victory….
Julianne Thompson of Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, a former [Karen] Handel supporter, was the first tea party activist to publicly sign up with Kingston after the primary.
The Chamber’s activity on Cochran’s behalf didn’t shake her own commitment to Kingston, but Thompson knows it angered others in her movement.
“As far as grassroots conservative activists are concerned, there is a distrust for the Chamber of Commerce,” Thompson said. “They seem to have become less about being pro-business and more about being in the middle of political races.
“I think it was a wise move on the Perdue campaign’s part to distance itself from the Chamber. I don’t disagree with them on that,” she said. “I think that David ran more of a tea party-type campaign, and that resonated with the voters at large.”
Bottom line: Four weeks later, when the Georgia GOP runoff for Senate came down to the wire, and Kingston went on TV with accusations that his rival was soft on illegal immigration, the Perdue campaign knew how to respond – and when.
Across Georgia, TV stations have a Friday noon deadline for purchasing weekend air time. Perdue operatives snuck in just under that deadline and plastered three days of television programming favored by the 55-and-older crowd with an unanswered 30-second spot that underlined the U.S. Chamber’s support for immigration reform. The ad declared Kingston “bought and paid for.”
Conservatives who saw the Chamber as a prime villain in the Mississippi race were predisposed to Perdue’s message, or so goes this theory. I personally think that career appropriator Kingston’s credibility as a savage anti-Washington warrior was a little thin to begin with, too; it’s significant Perdue’s last-minute ad focused on his tenure in the House.
In any event, I hope no one is under the impression that Perdue’s win was some sort of victory for “moderation.” He systematically took just about every right-wing position available during the campaign (his alleged openness to a tax increase was really just an invention of his opponents, albeit one fed by a clumsy newspaper interview). And that anti-Chamber ad could have been scripted by Chris McDaniel.