Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., was on cruise control to win a 2014 bid for re-election until he made a comment on a station in Macon, Ga., that ignited a political firestorm. In essence, Chambliss hedged on a prior pledge never to raise taxes, stating that in light of the "fiscal cliff" the country is facing, his devotion to the nation was more important than a 20-year-old statement or pledge. That's when the fireworks started.
The first to seize on the comment was tax-fighting lobbyist Grover Norquist, who suggested that voters in the Peach State should hold Chambliss to his promise. But since Norquist comes from that insular world that is the D.C. bubble, most voters in Georgia have no idea who he is or what he was talking about. His statement really only managed to rile the rest of the D.C. bubble, causing pushback from several other Republican leaders who now view Norquist as more of a negative than a positive.
Both Norquist and his detractors often seem to have little concept of the reality of everyday politics outside of the Beltway. Perhaps had Norquist been more effective, a Republican president would be taking the oath of office in January. But just because the presidential race went against him, those who eschew Norquist need to think twice before they attack him or the broader concepts he espouses.
That's because all politics is retail. Thus enter a host of relatively big Georgia names that quickly floated about as Republican primary challengers to Chambliss. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who lost in a vicious race against now popular incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, was among the first names to be mentioned in the media. But prior to any mention of Handel, conservative GOP Rep. Tom Price, who represents the GOP voter-rich northern suburbs of Atlanta, was considered a possible Chambliss opponent.
Within a week, even bigger names were being mentioned. In the case of founder of the popular conservative blog "Red State" founder Eric Erickson, the mention came from ... Erickson himself. On a radio show he hosts (on the same station that launched Herman Cain), Erickson stated he had received some calls that later turned into "people pledging a lot of money." He switched from adamantly against running to "at least considering it."
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