Saturday, December 01, 2012

Who's Got Georgia On Their Mind?


How about that for a nice Hobson's choice?

Yesterday even quintessential corporate whore and reactionary dinosaur Roy Blunt (R-MO) admits he may have no choice but to vote to increase taxes on the very rich (the GOP's financial base). Yeah, Blunt told a KTRS Missouri radio audience he's considering raising the marginal tax rates on the rich as part of the Obama-Boehner Grand Bargain-- as long as it's "balanced" with lots of pain and suffering for working families. John Thune (R-SD), a non-Mormon version of Romney with presidential ambitions, is on the same page.

Blunt isn't up for reelection in 2014. Neither is Thune. I'm more impressed when I hear right-wing Senate incumbents who are up for reelection say they're open to making the rich pay a fairer share of the tax burden. ("Fairer"... but never fair, of course; fair would be going back to the Eisenhower era rates. And Republicans don't quite word it that way anyway.) So that's why I'm more interested when Tea Party primary targets like Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) make noises in that direction. There's is some degree of political courage-- not much, but some-- when they take a position that even hints at increasing rates on the rich (and on tossing the Grover Norquist pledge that more and more Republicans have come to regret).

Let's talk about the Republican senator who, aside from high profile notorious closet case Lindsey Graham, has put himself in the gravest jeopardy in terms of losing a primary contest to a teabagger: Saxby Chambliss. As I pointed out a few days ago, Chambliss is a rock bottom right-wing loon with a putrid voting record by any rational standards.
Chambliss, whose career-long ProgressivePunch score is a shocking 2.04-- even more far right than secessionist freak shows Jim DeMint (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS) or Jeff Sessions (KKK-AL) or Tea Party darlings Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT)-- says he knows Norquist and the teabaggers will come after him in 2014 with a primary challenge from an outright John Bircher like Paul Broun but is confident he made the right decision.
And it's not just Broun, who is actually so far right of either Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock that even "a liberal" like Chambliss could whoop his ass. Right-wing blogger and clownish crackpot Erick Erickson has backed away from primarying Chambliss but that leaves two very serious right-wing contenders who could beat him: former Secretary of State Karen Handel (an anti-Choice icon) and corrupt right-wing ideologue Rep. Tom Price. Aaron Blake at the Washington Post lists the reasons Chambliss could be even more vulnerable than Lindsey Graham in 2014:
1. While it’s not clear who might have the wherewithal to challenge Graham, there are plenty of candidates ready to challenge Chambliss. Price and Broun both have very conservative records, and Handel, of course, has a statewide resume.

2. Chambliss had a weak showing in 2008. Despite being an incumbent, he ran a few points behind Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the top of the ticket and actually needed to go to a runoff to keep his seat against Democrat Jim Martin, who wasn’t seen as a top-tier opponent. (Chambliss did beat Martin by double-digits in the runoff, for what it’s worth.)

3. He’s from South Georgia. Chambliss is from Moultrie, which is very far from Atlanta and from most of the state’s population centers. Thus, it seems logical that a candidate from the Atlanta area could beat him by regionalizing the race.

4. He’s got a tone problem. While Chambliss has got a largely conservative record, he’s hardly a conservative favorite. In fact, when it comes to the National Journal vote ratings, Chambliss has scored more conservative than Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) the last two years, and he was tied for the most conservative senator in 2010.

Chambliss’s problem is he doesn’t talk the conservative talk. He likes to instead talk about compromise, and he has flirted with middle ground on issues like immigration and now the “fiscal cliff.” He was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” during 2011 debt ceiling negotiations and is on the current bipartisan “Gang of Eight” for the “fiscal cliff” talks.

The fact that he was the first big-name Republicans to break with Norquist over the holiday weekend is exactly the kind of thing that makes some Georgia conservatives wary of him.

“He does not know how to talk to Georgia Republicans,” said one neutral Georgia GOP strategist, granted anonymity to discuss the race candidly. “This whole thing with Norquist-- why bother? You’re just kicking sand at people who already hate you.”
Teabaggers see him as the next mainstream conservative they can beat, the way they used Richard Mourdock to beat Richard Lugar in a primary this year. But they're comparing him to a victory they had which had more fortuitous results, ousting Senator Robert Bennett in 2010 and replacing him with lunatic fringe Mike Lee. But that was Utah, a right-wing bastion where no Democrats are going to win a Senate seat no matter who the GOP pukes up as their candidate. Georgia isn't Utah. Obama lost Utah with 24.9% of the vote, easily his worst showing anywhere. Georgia, on the other hand, gave Obama his best showing (45.5%) in any Confederate state other than the two he won--Florida (50.0%) and Virginia (51.1%)-- and the other one he contested, North Carolina (48.3%). He actually won 3 dozen counties outright, while next door, Alabama gave Obama a dismal 38.4% and Tennessee coughed up a grudging 39.1%.

It may be inconceivable that any Democratic politician in the state could beat Chambliss but one finds himself in an almost identical position today that now-Senator-elect Joe Donnelly (D-IN) found himself last year. The Republican-controlled Indiana legislature tweaked Donnelly's district in such a way to make it impossible for him to win reelection. Jackie Walorsky had nearly beat him under the old lines in 2010-- 91,341 (48%) to 88,803 (47%)-- and by swapping out a few Democratic areas for a few Republican areas, IN-02 became a pretty red bastion. With Kosciusko and Miami Counties added to the district, not even a hard core right-wing Blue Dog like Donnelly (or, as it turned out, Brendan Mullen) was going to have a shot there. If Steve Israel was too stupid to see that (and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Mullen's impossible race), Donnelly at least read the handwriting on the wall. He declared he would run-- a Hail Mary pass that he figured would precede a lucrative career on K Street-- against Richard Lugar. Polling showed he'd have no chance whatsoever to beat Lugar. But then along came the teabaggers and Mourdock. Donnelly won the seat 1,268,407 (50%) to 1,126,832 (44%)-- at the same time Romney was creaming Obama 1,412,620 (54%) to 1,140,425 (44%). Yes, you're reading those numbers right-- not only did Romney voters cross over and vote for Donnelly, plenty of Donnelly voters crossed over and voted for Romney... or against the Kenyan.

Back to Georgia. The Republican-controlled legislature there sliced Savannah out of the 12th CD. (Barrow lived in Savannah, just as he had once lived in Athens when the GOP sliced that out of his district; now he's moved to Augusta.) It made the district a lot whiter (so more safe for Blue Dog John Barrow in the primary-- and remember he lost Savannah to Regina Thomas in the last primary-- but much less likely for a Democrat to hold, even one with as far right a voting record as Barrow, who votes with Boehner and Cantor far more frequently than he does with Pelosi and Hoyer). Barrow actually managed to win against a weak, primary-scarred Republican, Lee Anderson, 138,965 (54%) to 119,857 (46%). Next year the GOP won't give Barrow such a weak opponent... and he knows it. They will probably run Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams-- unless Barrow flips and becomes a Republican, a distinct possibility. The other possibility is for him to run for the Senate seat in the hope that the teabaggers knock off Chambliss and give him a real fringe loon like Broun or Handel to run against.

As a postscript, let me just say that Donnelly and Barrow have almost identical ProgressivePunch crucial vote scores for the 112th Congress. Barrow is Congress' 193rd "most progressive" member (24.31) and Donnelly is the 194th "most progressive" (23.54), two truly abysmal scores when it comes to working families' interests. Five Republicans have voted more frequently with progressives than either Barrow or Donnelly. And Donnelly's first news as a Senator-elect was to make himself a problem in terms of filibuster reform, already arguing for a more Republican-friendly resolution. Yeah, Dems!

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At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you an idiot?!? Mullen lost by like 4,000 votes! That is EXACTLY the type of race you want to be pouring money into.

You are a bafoon.


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