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May 09, 2014 1:29 PM When Establishment Republicans Mix It Up

By Ed Kilgore

The big political narrative this week, which I’ve been fighting right tolerably often, is that the Great Big Grown Up Pragmatic Republican Establishment is in the process of crushing the Tea Party and all those other wingnuts in Senate primaries, setting the stage for a huge center-right victory in November. If the nail-chewing conservative Shane Osborn wins in Nebraska next week, that, too will be marked up as another Establishment win, basically because Mitch McConnell is backing him against Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund candidate Ben Sasse, another nail-chewing conservative.

But no matter what happens in Nebraska, the May 20 Georgia Senate primary is being set up as the next triumph of reasonable, massively funded candidates who will put paid to the self-destructive extremism that has frustrated GOP efforts to win the Senate during the last two cycles. That’s because most (though not all) polls have shown Outsider Businessman David Perdue and Career Appropriator Jack Kingston leading the field, with poorly funded Tea favorite Paul Broun struggling to stay afloat. (Karen Handel, whose tattered Establishment credentials are probably less important than her rep as a victim of Planned Parenthood and her backing by Sarah Palin and Erick Erickson, is by some accounts making a late surge, despite fundraising numbers only a bit better than Broun’s).

I’ve already abundantly observed that Kingston, much like Thom Tillis in NC, has done everything within his power to repudiate his “establishment” image, howling at the moon almost nightly. Now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Daniel Malloy has a fresh example, involving the great Wingnut Cause of opposing the Common Core Education Standards:

David Perdue is shown next to President Barack Obama in a new Jack Kingston mailer on the Common Core education standards that has shown up in mailboxes in south Georgia and Roswell, we hear….
The mailer takes Perdue’s comments to the Marietta Daily Journal on Common Core, the controversial educational standards movement launched in part by his cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue. David Perdue has sought to thread the needle on the standards, saying he agrees with the intent but not the execution.
Kingston has been more direct, comparing the standards to Obamacare.

Matter of fact, Kingston calls Common Core “Obamacare for Education,” the deadliest insult a conservative can imagine.

Perdue has responded hotly, saying he does not support Common Core (because Obama has ruined it by supporting it with federal grants, it seems) and touts a Georgia fact-checker’s assessment that the charge he supports this godless liberal conspiracy in which his own cousin was a national leader is “mostly false.”

As this incident (along with many others) illustrates, the first instinct of the Establishment Republican when challenged ideologically is to go racing to the right as rapidly as possible. And it says something about the general drift of the GOP that Sonny Perdue can be a champion of Common Core as recently as 2010, and David Perdue has to swear it off within four years.

The clincher is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, supposedly the bedrock of support for Common Core, has endorsed a candidate in this race. Yep, you guessed it: Jack Kingston. What are the Chamber’s priorities, and if they’re selling out Establishment Republicanism, what’s left of that supposedly triumphant brand?

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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