Georgia’s Senate Race: The Birth of the Anti-Akin

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 26 2014 8:57 AM

Georgia’s Senate Race: The Birth of the Anti-Akin

Benjy Sarlin is out with a fun and informative look at the Republican primary for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat. When things get bleak for Democrats—like when, say, their candidate in a sure-thing must-win Iowa race makes a gaffe at a fundraiser and is attacked for "hating farmers"—they murmur that they have an OK chance at winning in Georgia, because they're going to nominate political scion Michelle Nunn and the Republicans might nominate a right-wing nut. And the presence of Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, two safe-seat Republicans who regularly delight the liberal press with conservative derp, gives Democrats hope. For months the left has portrayed Broun as the probably Next Todd Akin.

Everyone supports the Second Amendment, for example, but only Broun’s campaign has raffled off an AR-15, the semi-automatic rifle made infamous by the Newtown school massacre. The whole field wants to get rid of Obamacare, but only Gingrey has promised not to run for re-election if he hasn’t successfully repealed it in one Senate term. Gingrey and Kingston have joined Broun in regularly voting against Republican bills from the right in order to prevent any one of them from gaining separation... Kingston attacked Harry Reid while Gingrey condemned “rap music,” Hollywood, and trashy music videos for corrupting the youth (“What does the federal government do about it?Nothing!”). Broun accused Gingrey and Kingston of being typical Washington Republicans (“What separates me from my two colleagues here: I’ve never requested an earmark.”).

All good fun, but the problem is David Perdue. The wealthy former CEO of Reebok, rarely discussed in profiles of this race (though discussed here), has slowly risen from last place into, at least, a chance at a runoff berth. Here's one of the ads (designed by Fred Davis) that just started airing.

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A poll this week, from SurveyUSA, showed Perdue surging into a lead over the field, with 29 percent of the vote. That was the pollster's first look at Georgia this cycle, and Sarlin points out that polls have been "all over the map" and some previous PPP numbers showed Paul Broun* in the lead. But in that poll, which showed Broun at 27 percent, Perdue had risen from 5 to 12 percent since last year. Broun had pulled some right-wing support from Gingrey; Perdue had come up the middle. If Perdue blitzes at the right time, he'll be in a runoff with some candidate who, probably, disagrees with him on Dodd-Frank and is generally more prone to breathing fire. And if he wins, Broun and Gingrey will have forfeited re-election to the House. The GOP will be done with them.

If the story of 2014 is not Tea Party upsets—if, like Cornyn did and McConnell is about to do, Perdue flicks away candidates who scramble to the right—Democrats will have lost a chance to make another race about the gaffes of the Republican. The primary is in two months, and the runoff is two months later. Who's in better shape for that—the rich guy or one of the battered right-wingers?

*Broun, who won a 2007 special election and proved hard to dislodge, called Obama a "Marxist" right after the 2008 election, joined ministers in anointing the Capitol with holy oil before the 2009 inaugural, and has generally taken the most right-wing position on any available issue.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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