As possible candidates to replace Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate continue to sidle up to the proverbial ring with their proverbial hats aimed at it, take a few minutes to read this story from the New York Times about how national GOP figures are trying to get more involved in recruiting and promoting candidates in Senate races across the country. Here’s the gist of it:
The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate. …
The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.
The project is being waged with last year’s Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin’s comment that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy rippled through races across the country. In Indiana, the Republican candidate, Richard E. Mourdock, lost a race after he said that when a woman became pregnant during a rape it was “something God intended.”
The story has sparked reactions on the right ranging from sharp criticism to unimpressed indifference. Some have pointed out that more establishment-type candidates didn’t win winnable Senate races last year in states such as Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin. And of course, Rove’s role in George W. Bush’s presidency comes with unfavorable associations of its own: e.g., the creation of Medicare Part D and higher spending more generally.
The piece mentions no possible candidates in Georgia by name, but it does quote Georgia GOP chair Sue Everhart at the end:
Sue Everhart, the head of the Georgia Republican Party, said she did not object to outside intervention. But because open Senate seats do not come along very often, she said,”we have six congressmen who want the job,” which could create a messy and divisive primary regardless of the efforts to control the race.
“The primary has to sort itself out in Georgia,” Ms. Everhart said. “That’s what primaries are for. But we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. This is going to be a very important election, and it’s paramount that Georgia keeps its Senate seat in Republican hands.”
You can bet the Georgia name on the tip of every tongue at American Crossroads is that of the only semi-official candidate in the race, Congressman Paul Broun of Athens. Broun famously called evolution and the Big Bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell” and suggested Barack Obama has more allegiance to the Soviet constitution than the American one. These are exactly the kinds of statements the folks at American Crossroads — and, as far as I can tell, nearly everyone in the state GOP hierarchy — would not like to have attached to the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate next year.
The question in my mind is how much of a backlash outside intervention — directed at Broun or anyone else — would spark among Georgia’s grass-roots GOP activists. I’d say that’s also probably the question on the minds of Georgia Democrats, who probably need a nasty, divisive Republican primary starting this year and lasting next July, and even to an August runoff, to have a strong chance at winning statewide in 2014. (It will get easier for them in 2016, 2018 and certainly by 2020.)
Rather than helping avoid such a fight, outside intervention could virtually guarantee one. My take today is that Georgia’s Republican hierarchy is sufficiently committed to fielding a nominee who’s not dangerously inflammatory that Rove’s group would be wise to take a pass. If it decides otherwise, the next 18 months in Georgia politics could be even more interesting than we thought.
– By Kyle Wingfield