Senate Election 2014
Tom Knighton already touched on the new Washington Post/Pew Research poll showing that not even a majority of Americans express disappointment or anger for the Senate failing to enact the Manchin-Toomey amendment. In fact, the only group that is disappointed in failing to expand background checks is Democrats. A plurality of independents — 48%, to be exact — and 51% of Republicans describe themselves as “very happy” or “relieved” that the measure failed to pass.
As Chris Cillizza concludes, President Barack Obama “wound up losing the message fight over the gun legislation.” Of course, this is what happens when you waste political capital, as President Obama and the White House did, on an issue that only 4% of Americans really care about.
“Rather than a conversation centered on widely-popular measures supported by members of both parties,” he explained, “the debate — at least as people perceived it — became a wider referendum on the proper place for guns in society.”
We’re barely through with the 2012 elections, but the 2014 Senate races are heating up quite nicely. This is fun, right? You can see a map here of the 2014 and which way each state leans. I’m keeping a close eye on two of those races specifically: Georgia and South Carolina.
Georgia interests me because it’s my home state but also because it’s the reelection campaign of the man whose liberal idiocy prompted my entrance into political activism. Saxby Chambliss is certain to face a primary opponent, and I’m certain to support that opponent. The only question to be answered is who will decide to run against him. I wrote about this race and Chambliss’ potential opponents recently.
South Carolina also has my eye for two reasons. First, I grew up there, and the vast majority of my family lives there. Second, it’s an opportunity for the state to rid themselves of the biggest imbecile in the Senate. Lindsey Graham is also nearly certain to find a primary opponent, and that opponent is also likely to win my favor (especially if that opponent is Tom Davis).
The problem with these races – and really a lot of the races in the coming Senate election – is that the incumbent has had (at least) six years to build up campaign funds and become part of a system designed to keep him elected. Lindsey Graham has a war chest of over $4 million. That’s enough money to scare off a lot of quality candidates that would give him a run for his job.
With the dust finally clearing from the 2012 election, FreedomWorks, an organization that organizes and trains the grassroots, hosted over 100 activists from 19 states for a debrief on this year’s campaigns — finding out what tactics and strategies did and didn’t work.
This weekend also provided these Freedom Movement activists, all of which were flown into Washington, DC for the meeting at FreedomWorks’ headquarters, an opportunity to plan for 2014, as well as to receive some training in new techniques to help get their message out to new voters and to get an idea of what is going on in the negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” and the status of ObamaCare’s state healthcare exchanges.
This morning, FreedomWorks hosted a press conference that give activists an opportunity to be heard by the media. Before turning over the press conference to activists, Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, explained that “[t]here’s more energy in this movement today than there was on November 6th,” adding that the the activists that showed up this weekend are focused on 2014 and ideas.
Kibbe also noted that the debate and negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” were somewhat peculiar. “I don’t know about you, but I feel like we went over the fiscal cliff a long time ago,” explained Kibbe.
Over the last six years, I’ve been watching Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) very closely. Back in 2008, Chambliss faced a tough challenge in a three-way, finding himself in a runoff against Jim Martin, a liberal Democrat.
Part of the problem was campaign organization. Insider Advantage quoted an unidentified Republican who said that Chambliss and company had the organization of a “bad state House race,” calling it a “embarrassing campaign.” There was also the perception of Chambliss among Georgia Republicans. Insider Advantage again quoted a unidentified Republican who said, “Saxby’s reputation is that he’s spent six years in Washington playing golf. He’s gone on lots of trips. He hasn’t done the down-and-dirty constituent work.”
“Saxby bragged about it his first four years – how much golf he was getting in. It was a real problem and it irked a lot of people,” said the unnamed Republican source. Many Republicans in the state were less than thrilled with Chambliss, who hadn’t been able to endear himself to the state party the way Sen. Johnny Isakson had.
Another issue that hurt Chambliss was that he had lost the support of many fiscal conservatives in Georgia because of his votes that put taxpayers at risk.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who has served in the upper chamber since 1978, announced yesterday that he won’t seek a seventh term in office in the 2014 mid-term election:
Longtime Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, will not seek re-election next year, he said in a statement Tuesday.
“After much consideration and many conversations with my wife Mel and our family, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2014. I will serve out my term, and then it will be time to go home to Montana,” he said.
During the remainder of term, Baucus pledged to fight the nation’s fiscal issues and work for highway and farm bill that will support jobs in his state.
The announcement comes a week after Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, told DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the administration’s implementation of ObamaCare, a law he helped write and usher through the Senate, could become a “train wreck.” Republicans have seized on the comments and used them to further criticize the controversial, unpopular law.
Baucus was considered vulnerable in 2014. According to a survey released in February by Public Policy Polling, Baucus could have faced a tough race against a strong Republican candidate. His approval rating with Montana voters was also underwater, at 45/48. An approval rating below 50% is generally considered a red flag for an incumbent.
The libertarian-wing of the Republican Party is gaining more and and more attention every day. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is already well-known for his stands for free markets and civil liberties, but Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is also getting attention.
In his Sundy column at the Washington Post, George Will, a conservative columnist with a libertarian streak of his own, praised Amash and floated the idea that the Michigan Republican may join the growing ranks of liberty-minded senators:
He absorbed a libertarian understanding of opportunity from the example of his father, who began his very successful business career by buying stuff from small wholesalers and selling it door-to-door. Amash graduated magna cum laude with an economics degree from the University of Michigan, then earned a law degree there. “Some of my views,” he says mildly, “were a little bit different from my Republican peers.” He began reading Friedrich Hayek and other representatives of the Austrian school of economics, and less than four years after he left Ann Arbor, he was in Michigan’s Legislature, where in his one term he cast the only “no” vote on more than 70 bills.
Last week, the National Journal profiled Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian-leaning Michigan politican, noting how his potential entry into the race for the Republican primary for United States Senate could further shake-up the establishment in both parties:
Amash is a unique politician with the potential to transcend traditional party appeal. He preaches transparency and accountability, having never missed a vote in Congress. (He also writes lengthy notes on his Facebook page explaining every vote.) His isolationist streak has earned him a following among young people. His Arab-American heritage makes him appealing to minorities. He’s the rare politician with fans at both the American Civil Liberties Union and Right to Life.
Amash also has the ability to attract serious money. Already, one libertarian super PAC has pledged to spend upward of $1 million to help him get elected, and others would likely follow (Club for Growth would surely spend big on his behalf). The ability to attract such substantial outside assistance makes Amash an intimidating contender, and could send other Republicans running from a primary challenge. “If that money comes through, that’s a big benefit,” said former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, another potential candidate. “Look, this is going to cost $2 million to $3 million in the primary, and another $10 million to $15 million in a general election. So if there are people who are willing to put that kind of money behind him, that makes a big difference.”
When Democrats bring their new anti-gun control measures to the Senate floor next month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will not be among the Republicans who are working to stop them.
During an interview yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union, Graham told Candy Crowley that he believed that any legislation including universal background checks wouldn’t pass the Senate, but he added that he would not join a filibuster against the measures:
Sen. Lindsey Graham does not support extending background checks to gun sales between two individuals, nor does he think such a bill would pass the Senate, but he said Sunday he will not hold the measure up with a filibuster
“The only way I would filibuster a bill is if Sen. (Harry) Reid did not allow alternative amendments,” the South Carolina Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley.”
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is taking some heat from House Republican leadership because of some of his recent votes. Why? It’s not because his behavior is out of the ordinary — it’s because his votes are pushing other Republican House members from Georgia to slant more to the right.
As of now, Broun is the only declared candiate in the Repubican primary for Georgia’s open Senate seat in 2014. However, his colleages, Reps. Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston, are expected to jump in the race any day now.
Broun, who applies a “4-way test” before he votes on legislation, announced his opposition to the budget in an op-ed at The New York Times earlier this week.
“The latest budget proposal by Representative Paul D. Ryan, called ‘The Path to Prosperity,’ is anything but,” wrote Broun. “It fails to seriously address runaway government spending, the most pressing problem facing our nation.”
He added, “I cannot vote for something that would trick the American people into thinking that Congress is fixing Washington’s spending problem, when in actuality we’d just be allowing it to continue without end.”
While the House budget repeal’s ObamaCare, Broun notes that it leaves the taxes passed as part of the law in place, which is another sticking point for him. Broun instead only voted for the Republican Study Committee’s budget, which was presented as an amendment on Wednesday by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA).
The Republican primary for Georgia open Senate seat is sure to be an interesting one to watch. It doesn’t seem like anyone currently announced or expected to announce have really done a lot to drive support. This provides a more Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who has set a mid-May deadline for a decision, has apparently spoken with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) about the race, according to Politico:
Republican Rep. Tom Price met Monday with senior officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to two sources.
The Georgia congressman continues to mull a run for the seat opened up by Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ retirement.
Price, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, raised more than $300,000 in the two weeks after Chambliss retired and had $1.6 million cash on hand at the end of the year.
There are no details as to what exactly was discussed, but Price would be a formidable candidate if he decided to throw his hat in the ring. But Politico does note something that has been mentioned from people I’ve spoken to in Georgia politics. Price, who was elected to Congress in 2004, currently serves as Vice Chairman of the House Budget Committee, behind Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and would presumably be next in line to lead the powerful committee.