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February 27, 2014 3:25 PM C Words

By Ed Kilgore

In another fascinating development from the ever-fascinating Republican Senate primary contest in GA, Rep. Jack Kingston, a candidate mainly known as (a) a long-time congressional appropriator, (b) something less than an ideological zealot, and (c) the best financed of all the candidates, ran his first big TV ad. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway notes, the ad does not mention “the C word,” Congress, even though that is where Kingston has been working for the last twenty-two years. But it does contain a visual slug at the end noting that National Journal had rated Kingston as having the “most conservative voting record in the race.”

Now alert viewers might deduce that “voting record” implies that Kingston had a job involving some sort of voting, and some might even know or figure out he’s a member of that hated institution, the United States Congress. More to the point, in a race where Kingston is going to be called RINO so many times that people might wonder if he’s a safari veteran, the ghostly National Journal rating distinguishes him against two men who are going to be loudly doubting his ideological savagery, his House colleagues Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey. So even though Kingston would like to avoid drawing attention to his many years of happily putting together spending bills in Congress, he’ll be happy to flaunt that “most conservative in the race” badge.

As some of you may know from previous controversies over National Journal ratings (notably the heavy use of NJ’s most-liberal-senator label for John Kerry by Republicans during the 2004 cycle), they are based more on partisan cohesiveness than on any objective ideological standard. So people like Broun, who regularly dissents from the Republican leadership from the right (and also has Paulist tendencies on civil liberties issues), is going to get saddled with a lot of “liberal” votes even though nobody listening to the man rant and snarl for thirty seconds would think he has a liberal bone in his created-not-evolved body.

But it’s a whole lot easier (both rhetorically and financially) for Kingston to let NJ call him a champion conservative than it is for Broun or Gingrey to explain why he’s not. So this strange campaign message of a man touting his conservative record in a legislative body he pretends is a footnote in his career as a businessman and churchgoer will probably continue.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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