What If The GOP Threw A Party And No One Came?

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Republicans finished their unsettled nominating business last Tuesday, selecting “outsider” David Perdue as their choice for U.S. Senate, Richard Woods for State School Superintendent, and a host of others for State House, Senate, and other local offices.  While the candidates are now settled, a few questions remain about the party itself.

While most county, district, and state GOP bylaws prohibit official endorsements, it’s safe to say that Jack Kingston was the choice of those that make up the party establishment.  That extends well beyond the pejorative use of the term used by Tea Party leaders and talk radio hosts.  In fact, it extends to their doorstep.

The leaders of Georgia’s most prominent Tea Party organization and RedState.com Editor & WSB radio Host Erick Erickson sided with the same candidate as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the bulk of the Georgia GOP’s finance team.

Kingston also managed official endorsements and campaign efforts and appearances from Karen Handel and Congressman Phil Gingrey.  Election day brought word that even Paul Broun considered Kingston “the Conservative choice”.  (As a reminder, I – equally inconsequentially – also endorsed Jack.)

It seemed that everyone was behind Jack Kingston.  Everyone – except a majority of the voters.

Perdue matched Kingston’s organization and fundraising prowess with a healthy personal investment and the aid of a SuperPAC which wasn’t bound by individual candidate fundraising limits.  Rather than appealing individually to the people that like to show up at GOP events and scream “we are the grassroots!”, Perdue instead took to the airwaves with excellent commercials that tapped into the skepticism of “career politicians”.  Kingston had the self-described grassroots.  Perdue has the nomination.

Another potential set of issues for Republicans comes from the results of the State School Superintendent’s race.  With one of the most stark contrasts between candidates in any race, Republicans decided to choose Richard Woods over Mike Buck by just over 700 votes out of almost 400,000 votes cast.

The results show Republicans as indifferent as they are divided.  Roughly 85,000 more people voted for a Republican for U.S.  Senate than bothered to choose between the two candidates for State School Superintendent.   Perhaps the voters shouldn’t be blamed.  Maybe the candidates should be blamed for not having the personal net worth to invest in a prolonged statewide advertising campaign.

Perhaps this is the expected evolution of Georgia’s GOP – one that can’t seem to be anti-establishment enough these days.  What way better to be anti-establishment than to nominate as the party’s standard bearer the one who circumvented every organized part of the GOP establishment spectrum?

Well, the party could have chosen as their First Vice Chair a person who voted for Obama in 2008 then refused to support Mitt Romney when voting as a delegate to the RNC in 2012 nor vote for him at the ballot box later.  That almost happened at the last Georgia GOP convention.

There are many within the active establishment of Georgia Republicans whose sole rallying cry is being “anti-establishment”.  It’s a symptom of being a supermajority.  Those that want power must gain it by taking it where they can.  For the past 12 years, that’s been within the GOP.

And yet, while Georgia Republicans have spent the past several cycles solely focused on themselves, the Democratic party has gone from a laughingstock that couldn’t pay the utility bills at their party HQ to one that now has national Democrats seeing purple.  Democrats are taking November in Georgia seriously.  There remains an open question if Republicans even know how.

For all the talk of “unity” that we will see for the coming weeks, Republicans have the stark realization that everything they know how to use to influence an election was just used to nominate Jack Kingston – but didn’t.  On the one issue that divides Republicans on education – Common Core – The voters were evenly split, with almost one in five not even interested in making a decision.

In short, the Republicans who have spent the last 12 years honing an inward focus don’t even know how to motivate themselves via their grassroots, party, and Tea Party infrastructure – combined.  Money from an outsider can trump all of that, ignoring all GOP related activities as white noise.

Now comes a November general election the likes of which Republicans have not seen since we have been in a majority.  There are top tier Democratic candidates with deep Georgia political pedigrees.  There will be enough funding from out of state interest groups on both sides to make swing state Ohio jealous.  And there will be independent voters hanging in the balance.

Independent voters.  The ones that have been systematically driven away from GOP intraparty gatherings because they didn’t conform, or didn’t agree with those shouting “we are the base” the loudest.  And now, suddenly, these are the votes that count.

Self-reflection is a wonderful thing.  For the GOP, we’ll have to decide if less than 100 days from an election is the time to do that. We’ll likely figure out that maybe, just maybe, we’ve been influencing those that will decide this election this entire time.  But, unfortunately, we may have been doing that wrong this whole time.


  1. Harry says:

    Quite a spin there Charlie. You’re like a broken record. Maybe the independents are more conservative than otherwise in their voting. Maybe the Georgia Democrats behavior of top down insider selection of candidates having family connections, won’t work for them after all. And the Democrats shot themselves in the foot with their selection of school superintendent. They may have had a chance with the other one of gaining some crossover votes.

  2. EAVCandor says:

    As a former conservative turned whatever, I’ve got to say that it’s been these different sects claiming to be the “base” of the party that’s pushed me away. I can’t identify with any of them; some are so hard line it makes me sick while the rest seem to care about nothing but getting in bed with whoever they think can win and in turn do something for them. I feel like anyone looking objectively at our governor’s race could see an easy choice between an old and corrupt out-of-touch politician with no desire to push an intellectual agenda and a young, smart, in-tune candidate who sees where this state is and where it needs to go. But the letters next to the names are all that matters here. It’d almost be a laughing matter if our sitting governor wasn’t actively screwing the state up further with his scandals, ineptitude on Medicaid and unwillingness to take up tough issues during session.

    • Harry says:

      What you write is hardly “looking objectively at our governor’s race”. You realize that “young” Jason, until he quit the state senate to run for governor, was representing the most liberal white (and perhaps most liberal overall) senate district in this state. Jason has no in-depth knowledge of policy – he doesn’t appear to be intellectually curious at all. So where you write “young, smart, in-tune candidate who sees where this state is and where it needs to go” I would respond that it depends on the eye of the beholder.

      • Don’t know where you’re getting that from Harry. I’ve personally worked with Jason in an extremely close capacity on two issues that can get complicated – in his capacity as an attorney on redistricting (he was involved with lawsuits in 2004/2005 first defending then against the state as an attorney) and later on the HOPE scholarship reforms a few years ago as a legislator.

        I can personally attest (as I think many others on here can) that he’s an extremely skilled attorney and legislator that has an exceptional grasp of the issues. I think if you interviewed many Republican legislators privately they would tell you the same thing.

        You guys can focus on the legacy element of his candidacy all you want (ironic given that George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, sons of Presidents/Governors respectively are two of your most recent Presidential nominees) but I am here to tell you that when it comes to Jason Carter, he’s in the Prince Fielder category of legacy candidates and you should keep underestimating him based on his last name.

        • Harry says:

          I was not impressed with his mealy-mouthed response to policy questions in the couple of interviews I’ve seen. Of course, now he’s avoiding the issues entirely. You’ll get no more substantive information out of him before the election. At least Gov. Deal has a substantive record, like it or not. Jason’s limited voting record in the senate is something he doesn’t want to bring up but the Republicans will be mentioning it.

              • bird says:

                Harry, Jason is one of the most astute and intellectually curious people I know. He has written a book and finished second in his class at UGA Law.

                I suggest you learn a little more about him.

                • Harry says:

                  OK, I’ll retract my statement about Jason Carter not appearing to be intellectually curious, because maybe in the interviews he just wanted to avoid addressing the details. It would be nice to know what are his specific policy positions, but apparently that’s not gonna happen except to the extent we can study and comment on his pretty limited voting record.

                  • NorthGAGOP says:

                    When was the last time a candidate won a campaign based on policy? On either side of the aisle.

                    • Harry says:

                      It’s unfortunate if candidates are elected on other than policy considerations. You’re probably correct. We are trending to elections decided on personality cults, more government bread and circuses.

        • jiminga says:

          Carter is a former state representative while Bush and Romney were former governors. Perhaps you can see the difference. But then, maybe not.

          • OK whatever man. Before they were Presidential nominees they were…guys running for Governor whose main claim to fame was their fathers. Keep trying though.

      • Will Durant says:

        Thank you for the belly laugh from this site’s fount of intellectual curiosity. A person who has stated more than once that he has no interest in reading sources outside of the right wing propaganda sources he cites here on an almost daily basis. The “eye of the beholder” can’t very well see the big picture if it suffers from tunnel vision.

    • John Konop says:

      In fairness Governor Deal has done a good job in expanding vocational education options as well as promoting business. The big elephant in the room is transportation, which has ideologues spewing about local control…without understanding it is a regional and statewide issue…..Many of the people are not even smart enough to realize had we not done the airport years ago they would not be here ie regional/ statewide driver the made us what we are today….they would be spewing the same BS but in Birmingham….who we beat out for the airport years ago….

      I have no answers how to explain basic concepts of even how are country grew from the funding fathers to this group….rather ironic since this group pulls out the constitution…without even understanding it via our history….Who do you think paid for the railroads, western expansion, Lewis and Clarke……? I do think Governor Deal wants to improve infrastructure, not sure how to get to some of the legislators who use talking points for votes over logic….

      • TheEiger says:

        “Who do you think paid for the railroads.” Three private companies built the first transcontinental railroad and not the federal government as you suggest. I believe those private companies were the Western Pacific Railroad Company, Union Pacific and Central Pacific. So…

        • John Konop says:

          The Eiger,

          In all due respect, you need to brush up on your history….Facts do matter when you debate.

          ……Political maneuvering and economic necessity thus combined to help pass the first of several land grant bills. These made government gifts of public land to the railroad companies in exchange for laying track in designated areas. In 1850, for example, the Illinois Central received a land grant of several million acres. Standard procedure was to distribute land by alternate sections along the proposed railroad line, one section going to the company and the next kept by the government. As land values increased, both the railroads and the government gained. Railroad companies then sold their newly profitable lots and used the proceeds to pay for materials and labor to continue their expansion.

          In this way, railroad construction became interwoven with land sales, which provided much of the capital needed to finance future undertakings. Heavy advertising by the railroads in the United States and Western Europe encouraged land sales. Both immigration and westward migration were thus accelerated by railroad development.

          With the passage of the Pacific Railway Bill during the Civil War, the Union Pacific Railway Company and Central Pacific were given millions of acres of land to complete a railroad all the way to the Pacific Ocean, one company starting at the West Coast and the other farther east. Both lines met at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, where the ceremonial “golden spike” was driven with a silver-plated hammer to commemorate the historic event.

          Shortly after this, however, land grants ceased to be public policy, because many people had begun to question giving away so much land to private companies. Between 1850 and 1870, over 129 million acres — seven percent of the continental United States — had been ceded to 80 railroad companies. Most of that land was west of the Mississippi. The value of grants amounted to more than half a billion dollars, a total even greater than it seems today, since the dollar was worth much more then.* ……


          • TheEiger says:

            I should be a little less ornery in the morning. You are correct the railroads were funded by the government issuing bonds. I said built. It should be the role of the government to fund transportation projects.

  3. Progressive Dem says:

    As long as Republicans are about castigating heretics and not converting independents, Democrats will have a shot.

        • Harry says:

          Concerning pro-life, Stupak and Casey are heavily marginalized. In the GOP there is a lively debate on both sides and nobody is marginalized even though some would prefer it that way.

          • WeymanCWannamakerJr says:

            Yeah the GOP’s lively debate is whether the party’s plank should allow rape/incest exceptions or just totally ban abortions.

            • Harry says:

              There are lots of pro-choice GOP people around the country, and they’re not marginalized anywhere near the extent to which pro-life people in the Democratic party are. The main difference is that the GOP is still open to the possibility of internal debate; the Democrats are not.

              • WeymanCWannamakerJr says:

                Yeah no marginalization at all intended such as this statement on this site a few months ago by Erick Erickson, “At RedState, one must be pro-life to be a front page writer.” Sounds like an open forum for a lively debate indeed.

  4. FranInAtlanta says:

    My take is that many of the Metro Atlanta people who voted for Perdue ARE Republican-leaning independents. And some were offended by Kingston’s remark about singling out free lunch students for what they saw as humiliation (I am an old lady and we knew who was “free lunch” when I went to school because they worked in the lunchroom.). What must be stopped is Kingston voters not voting or voting for Nunn because they are angry – Kingston is the guy to do this and, if he does, the other Senate seat is probably his if Isakson retires in 2016.
    Deal has done a reasonable job as governor. He can’t seem to stay out of his own way on ethics issues and doesn’t seem to be smart enough to enrich himself in the process of piling up ethics issues. And, while I am pretty sure I don’t want Jason Carter as governor, at least he wouldn’t vote Harry Reid or his replacement into a drag on the USA.

    • Probably the most under-reported miscalculation of the entire election cycle when it comes to the Senate race is exactly what you have figured out about Metro Atlanta Perdue voters – they are MODERATES who vote in the Republican primary. First Handel completely misunderstood who her base was and spent 2 years alienating them which led to Perdue capturing pretty much a majority of them in the first round with his mostly non-ideological ads.

      Then Kingston/allies spent millions of dollars attacking Perdue as a moderate which ultimately served as a positive advertisement to these same very voters – nevermind that Handel/Gingrey etc were busy endorsing, they just want to know who the least crazy person is.

      And that is how you have David Perdue as your nominee (which btw I think the same moderates will ultimately regret).

    • SmyrnaModerate says:

      Also completely agree that the lesson from this election was when told who the most conservative candidate was, metro atlanta voters voted for the moderate even in a run off election. It’s not an accident that Georgia has been represented by 2 very moderate senators in chambliss and isakson. While there are pockets if the state that will send a Paul broun to congress, overall the more moderate candidate wins statewide races. No one would confuse chambliss, isakson, sonny Purdue or Nathan deal as firebrand conservatives

  5. Three Jack says:

    “What If The GOP Threw A Party And No One Came?”

    Try inviting some women to the party. Maybe even a few minorities and younger candidates. This runoff offered nothing but stale pale males as is the case for most GOP elections. Folks like myself (apply whatever label you want) are simply not going to show up to vote if our choice is between two old white guys who thrive in the good ol boy political scene, but offer nothing new to the debate. Senate race provides a perfect example as neither candidate did anything to inspire voters to vote…they intentionally did the opposite.

    • TheEiger says:

      “This runoff offered nothing but stale pale males as is the case for most GOP elections.”

      You have to start somewhere and having good candidates run is a start. We had three good women candidates run this cycle (Handel, Pridemore and Sheldon). It was very unfortunate that at least one of them didn’t make it to the runoff.

  6. Al Gray says:

    The efforts to brand Kingston as a “conservative” were totally absurd. Over here, talk radio was largely in the Kingston camp, although the day before the election the loudest one said he was going to vote for Perdue. They kept pointing to some Heritage Foundation Report citing Jack’s Washington, DC conservative rating. I kept pointing to the $21.7 Trillion unfunded prescription drug liability he voted for running amok on the National Debt Clock, while citing that government involvement in drugs is why the USA has the highest drug cost in the developed world. It was quite an anti-Kingston barrage that I threw up in the last 10 days. 22 years of truly wild votes against financial sanity and assaults on the US Constitution provided ample ammo.

    Of course the All Kingston All the Time Erick Erickson Show would not take my call. Say what you will about the Austin Rhodes Show, he doesn’t reject callers on the opposite side of his positions.

    Despite the overwhelming firepower, Dr. Phil and his quartet caught a bad case of laryngitis

    This is going to be fun. With competitive races for governor, US Senate and US House District 12 we can flush all kinds of things out and leverage them to enormous effect, just like we have been doing over in Augusta and in this US Senate race.

    The November date with the Nunn remains a viable alternative.

  7. saltycracker says:

    Perhaps the “outsiders” and the “anti-establishment” voters are those that still embrace what should be Republican basics. Individualism, reasonably regulated capitalism, property rights, respect for laws, non-selective enforcement, private ownership, sound taxation codes, efficient/minimal government, a strong defense, sound monetary practices, benchmarked public debt leverages, adequate public infrastructure, good public land management, safety nets for those actually in need and most of all equal treatment of all citizens. For starters.

    By the time the lobbyists, special interests, extremist opposition hyperbole, half-truths, sound bites to throw out the biggest net and such get done with a candidate or those elected, we find difficulty identifying the visionary leader if he/she was standing in front of us.

  8. ryanhawk says:

    “On the one issue that divides Republicans on education – Common Core – The voters were evenly split, with almost one in five not even interested in making a decision.”

    I usually largely agree with, or at least understand your thinking, but not here.

    If you are going to pick one issue relating to education that most divides Republicans (and Democrats too) it would be policies that enable school choice. I think this, more than anything accounts for the weak showing of the two Republican primary contenders.

    If choice is your issue — and for many parents it is — why bother voting for either Woods or Buck? Each has already plainly stated they aren’t going to do anything to move the choice ball forward (i.e Woods was the only GOP candidate to explicitly oppose facility funding for Charters, and clearly intends to perpetuate under funding and over regulation of existing Charters). It’s a pity Morgan didn’t win the D runoff and set up a real contrast. Regardless I may very well vote for Valerie Wilson, with the idea in mind that electing a Democrat is the quickest route to neutering the office of state school superintendent.

    While common core was the shiny object the nuts fixated on this election cycle, choice will remain a fault line in the Georgia Republican party long after common core has been relabeled, consumed, and digested.

    • John Konop says:

      Part of the choice is people bought houses in good school districts……For most the largest investment they will ever make…..I get the choice issue for problem school districts…..but it is irrational to hurt good school districts…..The two biggest drivers in home values are schools and public saftey…..

      • ryanhawk says:

        Home values! First things first eh? People usually go to some lengths to cover up the adult interests they are serving, but kudos for stating this one so baldly.

        I don’t share your premise that more choice hurts either “good school districts” or home values. Nor the premise that there is such a thing as a “good school district” that serves the needs and interests of every child. The local district may serve your children well, but what of your neighbor who has a different view? Your opinion (and the opinion of every politician and educrat) of district quality should be irrelevant to my assessment of what is in the best interests of my child. But hey, as long as you imagine you will make an extra nickel on your house by locking someone’s child into that “good school district” it’s all good.

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