This week, one after another, four prominent, national conservative groups issued a rare series of public warnings to a private citizen considering a run for Congress.
Don’t do it, they told Bob Barr. We will bury you.
The first organization was the most important – the anti-tax Club for Growth, whose members are a deep source of Republican campaign contributions. Then came Concerned Women, a Beverly LaHaye group, followed by Eagle Forum led by Phyllis Schlafly.
On Friday, the influential Family Research Council joined the pack.
Each group – or, officially, their political action committees – endorsed U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, the tea party favorite and Republican incumbent who replaced Nathan Deal, now governor, in Washington.
But each one also gave specific mention to Barr, the former congressman and 2008 Libertarian candidate for president. Once a favorite of the conservative movement, who helped lead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, the four groups denounced Barr as a traitor to the cause. Gay marriage topped their lists.
“While he once authored the Defense of Marriage Act, Congressman Barr has since repudiated it and would like to see the law overturned. Mr. Barr was also an advocate for homosexuals in their quest to openly serve in the military,” wrote Connie Mackey, president of the Family Research Council’s campaign arm.
A spokeswoman for Graves said the congressman had not solicited the endorsements, or the denunciations of Barr. But if you believe such things happen by coincidence – well, get busy on that letter to Santa. Time’s a-wasting.
“It’s something of a compliment to someone who’s been out of Congress for eight years, to have somebody obviously stirring the pot sufficiently to have organizations unendorse you — before you even announce you’re running,” said GOP strategist Bill Crane, who’s helping Barr in his pre-campaign phase.
“If nothing else, it’s a demonstration that Bob’s candidacy would be formidable, though certainly, you’d prefer to have them say, ‘Run, Bob, run,’” Crane admitted.
Barr expects to make a decision by the end of the year. He’s been sounding out former supporters, and state party officials. A poll of the district “looks pretty favorable toward his candidacy,” Crane said.
There are reasons to think Graves is vulnerable. He was elected to a 9th District that included most of north Georgia. His new district, renumbered as the 14th, now includes the heavily populated northwestern counties of Floyd, Paulding, Polk and Harralson – all strangers to him.
Though Graves is a tea party hero, neither Governor Deal nor House Speaker David Ralston wanted him as their congressman – two important votes of non-confidence. (U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, who has represented much of the territory being shifted to the new 14th, on Friday endorsed Graves, calling him a “champion of fiscal conservatism.”)
Then there is the matter of the $2.2 million loan issued to Graves and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, in 2007 to renovate a Calhoun hotel. The lawsuit accusing the pair of defaulting on the loan was settled recently, but the issue remains a volatile one for a congressman so vocal about putting an end to government bailouts.
All that said, deposing a congressional incumbent is never easy. And Barr will have much to explain about his changes of position under the Libertarian banner.
“The tea party and the Libertarian party are not identical,” Crane said. “The tea party has a much more conservative front on a number of social issues. So there will be some disaffected voters. There will be some people that we’ll have to spend some time with.”
Topmost is legislation that Barr sponsored establishing a federal standard for marriage as being between a man and a woman. “Bob has in fact had a change of heart related to the Defense of Marriage Act,” Crane said. Barr now considers it a states’ rights issue.
Though judges and justices of the peace can perform them, the vast majority of weddings are still conducted in churches, where the federal government has no business, Barr is likely to argue. Limited government is limited government.
There would be plenty of irony in an attempt by Barr to return to Congress. Barr was defeated in 2002, when he ran against fellow Republican John Linder — Barr’s own 7th District had been weighted with Democrats by the Legislature.
His defeat was cited as a case of voters pulling away from a Republican who lived on the ideological extremes. A new Barr would run as a conservative with a practical streak – a man who would argue that principles are good, but dysfunction is not.
“When Bob served, the Congress balanced the budget twice, cut taxes, cut spending, reformed welfare, and actually got things done, despite having divided government,” Crane said. “It’s important to know the difference between saying the right things and voting correctly, and getting things done.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider