Republicans have struggled to try and avoid campaign-crippling remarks that could snatch away an otherwise easy win in 2014 — but that may be impossible in the Georgia Senate race.
With eight candidates vying for the nomination, you’d think Republicans would have their pick for the next Georgia senator. Instead the field is filled with a mess of candidates who drudge up the worst stereotypes of an anti-science, anti-woman, anti-Obama, anti-immigrant Mr. Moneybags candidate — a reputation the party has desperately been trying to shed.
Democrats view the GOP’s field as a boon for likely Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn, daughter of the former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), who many think has a chance even in a red state like Georgia. There’s a real possibility that the large GOP field will split the vote causing a runoff GOP primary between the two lead candidates.
“I mean, the runoff is going to be a shitshow,” a Democratic campaign official told TPM. “In the past six weeks we’ve seen ‘sweep the floor,’ we’ve seen ‘impeach Obama,’ we’ve seen Paul Broun raffle off a rifle.”
Here are the three current frontrunners in the race:
Rep. Paul Broun
|Supporter waits Broun to announce his run|
Rep. Paul Broun is one of the three candidates grasping at the lead spot in the polls. Even before Broun jumped into the 2014 Senate race he caught national attention for saying scientific theories like evolution and the big bang were “lies straight from the pit of hell.” After national outcry emerged noting that such comments came from a member of the House Science Committee, he later claimed the comments were “off the record.”
Broun has a menagerie of taxidermied animals in his office including a moose, caribou, and white tailed deer. A recent Daily Beast article showed Broun standing in his office furnished with a taxidermied lion and bear.
During the current slog of a Senate race, Broun wondered why a “Middle Eastern”-looking man at the airport didn’t get a pat down. He also warned that Obamacare is a bigger danger to the country than a national default and suggested that Democrats were trying to rig the vote by proposing a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally. In a show of hands, Broun’s shot up first when some of the candidates were asked if whether they would vote to impeach President Barack Obama. He recently offered for his supporters to “start off 2014” with an AR-15 assault-style rifle in campaign sweepstakes giveaway.
Rep. Phil Gingrey
|Gingrey speaks at a rally|
Rep. Phil Gingrey, another candidate regarded as one of the strongest in the large GOP primary field, earned himself plenty of criticism for complaining that his $172,000 congressman’s salary was too little. Before the Senate race he also defended then-Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) “legitimate rape” remarks by calling them “partially right,” even though other top Republicans raced to distance themselves from.
In November there was a mass exodus of top Gingrey campaign officials for mysterious reasons. Gingrey also eagerly mimicked Broun when asked if he would impeach Obama.
Rep. Jack Kingston
|Kingston rails against Obamacare|
Republicans likely looked to Rep. Jack Kingston, who came into the race as the most polished candidate, as the candidate that could avoid a clumsy mistake. But even that hope quickly fizzled. Kingston suggested that middle school students should sweep the floors in exchange for school lunches — when in fact Kingston himself had enjoyed a few free lunches in his time in Congress. Kingston also committed the cardinal Republican sin of suggesting that it’s not completely responsible to get rid of Obamacare without having a replacement.
Kingston’s staff hasn’t helped either. After Georgia suffered from a crippling snowstorm a finance co-chair for Kingston’s campaign strongly criticized the “cosmotini” drinking men who were whining about a little snow, even though the debilitating snowstorm and insufficient response left many in the Atlanta area stranded for hours.
Though University of Georgia Political Science Professor Charles S. Bullock thinks Broun has a lock on somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of primary voters, it’s not clear who could emerge victorious.
“There are two different individuals who [the Republican establishment] would definitely not want to see with the nomination, two of the most conservative individuals. That would be Broun and Gingrey,” Bullock said. “And tea party types probably would find Jack Kingston the least palatable although for the economic conservative he’s probably the most palatable.”
Groups like The Madison Project and The Senate Conservatives Fund have been slow to back a candidate in the race so far.
The Democratic campaign official cautioned that there’s still a lot of time left in the Senate race.
“We have another ten weeks of craziness in the runoff,” the official said.
The primary is scheduled for May 20.