It Wasn’t A Slow News Week For Chambliss

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

It was a great Thanksgiving week.  Most of us took the week off, or at least part of it. Washington was mostly empty of our politicians, so that they and even their staffers could evacuate the city and spend time back home with family.  It wasn’t supposed to be a heavy news week.  But politics often has a way of ignoring the calendar.

Monday afternoon, Roll Call published a report indicating that two Republican Georgia Congressmen are considering primary challenges to Saxby Chambliss in 2014. While that seems somewhat far away, building the proper coalition to run a statewide campaign against a two term incumbent senator will use all of that.  Roll call indicated that Tom Price of Roswell and Paul Broun of Athens are considering the plunge.

To add extra intrigue to the possibilities, The Weekly Standard ran a story on Wednesday indicating that Karen Handel is also taking a look at the race.  Handel’s former Campaign Manager, Rob Simms, was quoted in the article as saying “She’s considering it”.

A Handel entry makes the calculus of a primary challenge a bit more intriguing.  Both Price and Broun come from different flavors of the same D.C. based wing of Georgia Republicans.  While their geographic and idealistic base differ dramatically, their fundraising bases do not.  Contributors to Price or Broun would be having to make a choice.  Right now, all three men largely share the same donor base.

Handel, on the other hand, has run statewide just two years ago, losing a primary by roughly 2,500 votes.  That’s two years more recently than Chambliss who needed a runoff in 2008 to return to D.C., and an advantage over Price and Broun who haven’t yet run a statewide race.

Furthermore, her support – presuming it has remained intact from 2010 – is decidedly anti-establishment.  During her gubernatorial race only Congressman Tom Price supporter Handel over Governor Deal and the number of State House & Senate members who openly supported her candidacy can be counted on one hand.  Yet despite the uphill climb, she still came within less than 1% of a primary victory.

There are others, from even farther outside the “establishment”, who also are looking for a contender.  There is also now a “Draft Barry Loudermilk for Senate” Facebook page, though there is no evidence that State Senator Loudermilk is behind or has endorsed such an effort.   Loudermilk hails from Cassville, in the heart of TEA Party rich northwest Georgia.  It’s an area where many have likely made up their minds that they would like a new Senator, and are now just searching for the right “conservative” to get behind.

And therein lies Chambliss’ main problem, if he has one.  The definition of conservative is in the eye of the beholder, and it seems to have substantially changed since he first defeated “establishment” Republican Bob Irvin during a 2002 primary.

Chambliss now faces critics from the right/far right over his willingness to form “gangs” to seek compromise on major issues such as immigration reform or his current quest to solve budget and spending issues to reduce the deficit.  A current mantra accepted by much of the Republican base is that “compromise just means you’re losing faster”.

Yet those from more establishment quarters are also noting that Chambliss’ formations of gangs have been less than successful.  The gang formed to solve immigration reform ended with Chambliss abandoning the effort after grassroots Republicans booed him at the state GOP convention, and the current budget gang has been working for well over a year with much talk of “being close” but no finish line in sight.

Chambliss himself poured gasoline on this fire last week by telling Macon’s WMAZ that “I care more about my country than I do a 20 year old pledge”, referring to his group’s efforts to reach an agreement that may include more revenues going to the federal government, potentially violating a former pledge he made to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.  His statement has made national news and has become fodder for conservative activists seeking a proper challenger.

On Sunday night, WSB’s Erick Erickson tweeted “When Saxby Chambliss was a Congressman, he kept an oversized signed copy of the ATR pledge at the front door of his campaign office.”  Erickson formerly worked on one of Chambliss’ campaigns but has lately been stoking a challenge.

And yet, the cries for a challenge have been constant, almost since his last victory 4 years ago.  Backing off of the immigration reform deal didn’t gain many of his critics back, and leaving a long term deficit deal undone is unlikely to do so.

Thus, Chambliss is in an unusual position.  If he is weighing political calculation when deciding how far to push a deficit reform deal, he may find that his best solution is to come home with a deal that establishment Republicans and moderate independents can live with.  He may have already lost the hard right.  It may be time to lock in those who are conservative but want a government that can function.


  1. Couple of things: current law says the tax cuts expire so coming up with some sort of compromise where some of the tax cuts expire and some don’t is still a new tax cut. Grover Norquist’s whole political theory was that without tax increases (and with tax cuts) the government would have to strangle the baby in the bathtub (or whatever language he used) and clearly that hasn’t happened – as spending hasn’t reduced and thanks to Republican foreign policy misadventure (with a heaping of bipartisan support) it has sky rocketed. The tax rates in place during the 90’s were still among the lowest of the 20th century (just not lower than now) so I really don’t see how that’s a big deal.

    On Handel: her coalition included many, many, many moderate primary switchers who pinned the moderate label on her because of the campaign she was running and probably also with sexist intentions because they generally assume a woman is more moderate. Saxby is staking out essentially the moderate, reasonable, sane position, and the Democrats might have a pretty empty primary. So what happens if the Democrats essentially circle the wagons around Governor and Senate frontrunners and moderates are free once again to choose which primary they vote in and pick the Republicans – they’d probably go to Saxby at this point. His position, compromise that includes raising taxes on the rich, polls very well among everyone but the tea party set. So I don’t really see how Handel fits in to this.

    Final observation about Handel: what exactly has she done to deserve the status that she holds? As far as I can tell, the Republicans who like her mostly like her because they know the Republican party in this state is corrupt and has long term troubles and lacking a true internal force that is powerful enough to stage a coup they are desperately trying to pin their hopes on someone, anyone. But I think, as the disaster at Komen shows, they are trying to elevate her into a position she isn’t quite capable of occupying.

    My thoughts – good column!

    • tdk790 says:

      Thorough analysis, Chris. If Handel lost as the \”moderate\” choice in 2010, why would Saxby win as the \”moderate\” choice in 2014? I think the argument could be made that she\’s grown her coalition for a GOP primary with the pro-life crowd while maintaining the \”moderate\” metro area as her base. It\’s not like she changed any positions.

      We\’ll know soon enough. Price has the fundraising and ambition to take on Saxby, and I\’m not convinced he won\’t jump in.

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Her pro-life street cred transcends anything that grassroots anti-abortion advocates could ever muster up since she walked off the job at Komen because of PP. It’s a gift from the Political Gods.

      • David C says:

        I’d suspect Saxby has the broader “moderate” coalition than Handel, in part due to the benefits of incumbency, his status as someone from outside the Atlanta area, whereas Handel never really broke out of his metro roots, military/defense voters, who value his service on the intelligence committee on an issue with no play in a Gubernatorial election. Also Chambliss is only being heterodox on tax issues, not the cultural conservative stuff that matters to the base. His “moderate” coalition is moderate on only one leg of the three legged GOP stool, whereas she was thought wobbly on abortion in a two leg primary.

        • Trey A. says:

          Whoa there on Saxby’s support among “Military/defense” voters. As “GCP” pointed out in another thread here recently, Saxby still has that dubious “Trick Knee” albatross. People also remember the 2002 race, when Saxby ran those ads showing Max Cleland–an amputee war hero and a political moderate–side by side with Osama and Saddam. Fox News exit polls showed that Romney–who spent the Vietnam War years on a Mormon mission to French wine country and whose five sons did not serve post 9/11–lost Virginia and Florida because he got 5 to 7 percent fewer veteran/active duty votes than McCain did in 2008 (while making up ground in nearly all other categories). The Israel trip and the third debate certainly did not help his cause, either. In Virginia, Romney didn’t even get a majority of the veteran/military vote.

          “Military/defense” voters tend to have long memories and Saxby is not their favorite by a long shot.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Now that is the kind of crap I’m talking about. Didn’t he already run for U.S. Senate? Yeah. Lost that one pretty big. Now he’s just another philandering pol who got lucky because Neal’s retiring. Yet, you want him rather than Saxby. Amazing. Get back on Amazon and shop, please.

      • Joshua Morris says:

        Actually, Bob. Herman did pretty well in his Senate campaign, considering it was his first run for office from the position of a relative unknown. He beat a very well-known and well-liked congressman from middle Georgia in that primary race and would have given Johnny a real run for his money had it been a head-to-head contest.

        I would much rather see Herman Cain in the Senate rather than either of the weak buffoons representing us there now.

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          I would define a man who pays money to another woman than his wife that he’s having a sexual affair with a “weak buffoon”. We have two men in the U.S. Senate with class and that work well with others. Not some slick businessman with lies to hide and a newly restarted career as a radio jock. How you define a man is very interesting, Josh. Glad I have a vote to cancel yours out.

          • Joshua Morris says:

            Bob, do you (or does anyone) have proof for your first sentence? Has anyone outside of the National Restaurant Assoc even made a claim of sexual misconduct against Cain? You believe that tripe? Get a clue.

            Further, having class and the ability to work with others has done nothing lately for the People of this Nation. When a man compromises with socialists and communists, he is not going to come out with a successful solution. Now is not the time for holding hands with the other side and making nice. It’s time to stand up and fight for doing the right thing.

            • Bob Loblaw says:

              Proof? He dropped out of the Presidential race. If he was innocent, he wouldn’t have and the woman wouldn’t have found a publisher. But I’m not even talking about sexual misconduct in an employment law context. You called our Senators “weak buffoons” and his behavior was surely weak and buffoonish or he wouldn’t have been leaving the race and making apologies for the damage he caused his family.

              Go ahead and “stand up and do the right thing” by cutting government if that’s what you think needs to happen. But take off your Rose Colored glasses regarding Herman Cain. He’s on the radio again and not running for office for a reason.

              I know we have one Socialist in the Congress from Vermont, but where are the Communists and the other Socialists?

            • benevolus says:

              You don’t really want a democracy. Not sure what you want, but I am sure it is not democracy.
              I suspect what you want is just to “win”. As if this is some team sport and the only goal is to beat the other team.

              • Joshua Morris says:

                I want conservative principles to win. They work, and they could straighten out our financial problems. No one has the fortitude to stand up for them because the opponent calls us uncaring meanies or whatever and sells the false notion that giving more to government helps people and is the morally right thing to support. Instead of articulating our message, our weak-kneed representatives crumble and submit to the false premises that are happily swallowed by the ignorant.

                Every time conservative principles are compromised to the left, government grows, bureaucratic greed is fed, freedom is limited, and people are further enslaved to control by the ruling class. If the wealth and freedom this Nation has provided to the world is to live on, someone must stand up to the ignorant and the greedy who support government growth.

  2. Bob Loblaw says:

    Good Column? Sorry, but this column is a laugher and it sounds just like something DuBose Porter would want in his newspapers–something to start whittling away at the rural GOP base.

    Draft Barry Loudermilk? Must be one hell of an underground campaign. Barry is Todd Akin, Georgia Style. He once brought a bill to force hospitals to do abortions because hey–that’ll shut down all the abortion clinics, right? Wrong. Hospitals tore him apart.

    Erick Erickson “stoking” a campaign? Cute. Run yourself. I bet Erick had things on his wall 20 years ago that are outdated now, too. You are not Glenn Beck, Erick. Seriously. If Saxby’s not conservative enough for you and your horde of basement dwellers on RedState, run.

    Essentially, this column reads that all of the “base” conservatives are going to want to oust Saxby. That’s just great. Let’s split the GOP over re-electing a respected Senator a la the GOP Nomination to take on Obama and put up a whackjob, right-wing nutcase that thinks getting knocked up during a rape is a gift from God and that will commit him or herself to pledges like Grover’s so when they get to Congress, they don’t have to think! Their decisions will already be made for themselves by a DC political operative.

    Peach Pundit would do well not to fan these flames. Broun tried a statewide race once and he got 5%. Price is a lifer. How do you TEA party freaks think he belongs in your tent? He was the first GOP Senate Majority Leader. He’s been in office longer than Erickson’s been talking politics for a living. Terrible idea for him to mount a challenge vs. Saxby and in the end, he wouldn’t vary one iota from him, except for maybe a premature run for a leadership spot. He wants to be even “more establishment” than he already is. It’s just that his colleagues didn’t allow him to be.

  3. John Konop says:

    This is what former conservative house member Joe Scarborough said on his show: Why would anyone disagree? Is this conservative or liberal? What would Saxby, Karen and Tom say about it in an election?

    ……..Scarborough further criticized, “Why are we fighting and risking our majorities protecting billionaires that are hedge fund guys who are paying 14 percent tax rates?”

    He continued, “There’s something immoral about these people paying fourteen, fifteen, sixteen percent of their taxes because the tax rates are the way they are while small business owners who make $250,000 a year in Manhattan and may employ four people are paying a 35% tax rate.”…….

    • jiminga says:

      You do realize the 14% tax rate applies to capital gains, money earned after investing in companies that provide jobs….don’t you? These same people may also work for salaries where they pay much higher rates.

      Oh, and Joe Scarborough may have been conservative once but is no longer.

    • Three Jack says:

      You got one thing right John, “former conservative” when referring to JS.

      This entire discussion is incredible to me. ‘Tax the rich, means test SS and Medicare’…blah, blah. Liberals have succeeded in framing the debate so thoroughly that the GOP might as well just cave in, let em have the whole enchilada…tax hikes, more spending, healthcare for all, draconian military cuts…screw it, let’s be a bunch of panzis and just accept whatever big brother decides to give us.

      I am serious. The GOP should just give in, tell dems they have 2 years to do wtf they want. Let’s see what happens.

  4. Joshua Morris says:

    “those who are conservative but want a government that can function.”

    Huh? Please explain. Are you saying that these are two separate viewpoints that must be somehow resolved? I happen to believe that for government to function it must be downsized to a level that it is manageable, and I think this is a conservative viewpoint. Sadly, this isn’t Saxby’s goal, and it sure isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Where did Saxby say that he doesn’t want to downsize government? Every proposal I’ve seen him put forth has entitlement cuts. Every one. Very interested to see his statement that his “goal” as you put it, is less government.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        He’s on the Senate Armed Services Committee and no one is going to take his fiscal arguments seriously unless he can meet democrats halfway and fight to cut some of this foreign spending.

        It’s almost as if republicans missed out on one of the biggest lessons of the 2012 election:

        Cuts must be across the board. There are democrats who want to cut foreign spending but see no problem with domestic spending. There are republicans who want to cut domestic spending and see no problem with foreign spending (saxby, cough). What we have is republicans and democrats who want to just keep funding both (which is why our debt is so huge). What we need are cuts.

        • Joshua Morris says:

          When we spend twice as much on defense as we do on entitlements each year, I think the argument can easily be made that defense is not the major problem that we should be focused on right now. We should certainly cut foreign aid to our enemies. If we are to survive, we must cut entitlements, sharply.

          • Bob Loblaw says:

            No foreign aid, huh? So you want to tell Pakistan that the money’s not coming and put our soldiers in the way of that blowback or do you want someone else to deliver that message?

            • seenbetrdayz says:

              Pakistan has detained the doctor who helped us get Osama bin Laden.

              We can’t afford it, and it makes no sense to give money to buy friends. But, lets just keep borrowing money from China to pay Pakistan. Or let’s drop $40 billion on an Egyptian dictator over the course of decades, only to see him thrown out of office in a matter of weeks. Let’s offer air support to Libyan rebels only to see our ambassador murdered a year later.

              I swear to God the GOP is so clueless on foreign policy right now you guys will NEVER be trusted with the C-in-C position again.

              • seenbetrdayz says:

                I figured you all would have learned from the last election, but the biggest thing you took home from the loss is, “I guess we need to raise taxes”.

          • John Konop says:


            Bob is right………

            ……….A portion of the remaining $1 billion in fiscal aid will be sent to Pakistan as part of the Pentagon’s foreign military financing program.

            The rest of the money will be handed over as part of mandated included in the The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), according to the report.

            The first payouts are scheduled to begin this month, Pakistani news outlet Dawn reported on Thursday, citing a government official. The official could not comment on how much that initial payment will be.

            The decision by Washington to release the funds comes two days after Pakistani leaders allowed access to key supply lines in the country to U.S. and coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan.

            Islamabad shut down the supply lines last November after an errant airstrike by U.S. and NATO warplanes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

            The Pakistani supply routes had been critical waypoint for U.S. and coalition forces, which have been moving weapons, equipment and personnel through the country since the Afghanistan war began in 2001.

            The loss of the direct supply routes had cost the United States roughly $100 million per month, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta……


        • Bob Loblaw says:

          Right. He didn’t say that he wasn’t a small government conservative, did he? Not persuaded by Pye. Good column, though. I just don’t have a lens I look through that only sees the government delivering the mail, controlling the treasury and having a War Department.

  5. seenbetrdayz says:

    “Thus, Chambliss is in an unusual position. If he is weighing political calculation when deciding how far to push a deficit reform deal, he may find that his best solution is to come home with a deal that establishment Republicans and moderate independents can live with. He may have already lost the hard right. It may be time to lock in those who are conservative but want a government that can function.”

    Okay, this is the compromise. Congress must pass a real yearly budget (which it hasn’t done since 2009), before it even thinks about criticizing people who oppose tax increases as being ‘fiscally irresponsible.’ (ironic, right?).

    It’s strange to consider continuing to fund a government that doesn’t know what a budget is, but it’s absolutely outlandish to consider giving them even more money.

    This has nothing to do with which base he should try to pander to. This has everything to do with the fact that we might as well shred are next paychecks if we are considering raising more taxes to send to Washington. It would have about the same effect.

  6. Three Jack says:

    Saxby himself — “We will continue to work for deficit reduction that will not burden farmers, particularly after the high fuel costs and extreme weather of the 2005 crop year, and without harming the mutually-beneficial relationship between farmers and food stamp families,” Chambliss said in a statement.

    Government subsidizes farmers in order to provide food for subsidized freeloaders…what could go wrong? Vote anybody but Saxby 2014.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Do you believe in representative government?

      Do you know that Agriculture is the largest business in Georgia?

      Did you know that Georgia has some very poor citizens in every corner of the state and that our state is among the largest “taker” states for government food assistance programs?

      Is the Senator representing his state’s interests, here?

      Three Jack, I sincerely hope you never lose a job, get sick and have to quit and go broke paying hospital bills or otherwise ever need a helping hand for a little stretch until you’re back on your feet. You’d be a miserable customer at the grocer when you found out your favorite foods aren’t on the list.

      • Trey A. says:

        Better watch out, Bob. With comments like those they’re going to start calling you a RINO.

        More and more Americans are self identifying as independents for a reason.

      • Three Jack says:


        Do you believe it is sustainable to subsidize farmers so that they can provide sustenance for subsidized freeloaders?

        If this is what is now defined as ‘representing his states interests’, then indeed we are done. How about representing those of us who provided the dollars to subsidize all the rest. Where is our representation Bob?

        I have lost jobs, been flatass broke and paid my own hospital bills. I guess the difference between someone like myself living through tough times and others is I do not first look to government for assistance…I actually took it upon myself to find employment. People like you Bob who encourage government dependency fail both the government and those it enslaves with all the redistributed handouts. Compassion is not a government function.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    I understand Allen West is available, and Everhart has extended an invitation for him to return to Georgia and run for office.

    A prinmary including Price, Broun, and West would be a car load rivaling the extremism of Bachman, Cain, and Santorum.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    “Chambliss now faces critics from the right/far right over his willingness to form “gangs” to seek compromise on major issues such as immigration reform or his current quest to solve budget and spending issues to reduce the deficit.”

    You know, actually seek to govern.

    “A current mantra accepted by much of the Republican base is that “compromise just means you’re losing faster”.

    It’s a mantra that leaves the base awaiting law from those doing the governing, as occurred with PPACA, and very likely to result in less than optimal solutions.

  9. Trey A. says:

    Handel certainly qualifies as “interesting,” but she really didn’t do herself any favors with the gubernatorial campaign. You can call it an outside campaign, but she essentially had Perdue’s people running it from the start. And they helped her raise a ton of money, even as the good old boy network dutifully lined up behind the bankrupt and corrupt former Congressman and his “ghetto grandma” soundbites. Deal did not win that runoff. Handel lost it. Had she beat Deal, she would have doubled Deal’s margin of victory over Barnes. And worse, I’m not convinced that the state would be better off. I think Deal’s done a pretty decent job thus far.

    And I’m not impressed by what Handel’s done since she lost the runoff.

    (I was a Scott supporter in 2010 and wouldn’t mind seeing him make a run at the Senate, but now is not likely the time.)

  10. drjay says:

    maybe i’m stating what should be obvious here, but is all of this “noise” about challenging chambliss an effort to maybe persuade him to just retire and not deal with trying to get reelected again…this has moved beyond chit chat on blogs apparently-the ajc is covering it, politicalwire has picked it up, if erickson is discussing it, he has radio and his website to do it from…is the fact that chambliss is telling grover norquist to ram it up his spreadsheet a signal that he doesn’t care about reelection anymore either (or maybe a gamble that the rank an file primary voters don’t give a rip about norquist…)

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      Unless the democrats run someone who is fiscally clueless, and thinks that we can just go on and on spending the money we’re spending and never have any consequences ever, whatsoever. I think we should test that theory on a small scale first. Everyone go out and keep getting credit cards, max them out, and then get more credit cards to put the balance of the previous credit cards on, and then throw in a few extra credit cards and max them out too. We’ll compile the data and see how everyone is doing one year from today.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Of course, it’s hard to make it a left-versus-right argument because apparently there’s a lot of republicans who think like this too.

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