The Tea Party one-upmanship that has defined Georgia’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate reached its logical conclusion on Wednesday, when support for Paul Ryan’s ultra-right-wing budget became the mark of a RINO.
For months, the primary — which is essentially a tossup between U.S. Representatives Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, and former Reebok CEO David Perdue — has taken the shape of a mad dash to the right, with each candidate trying to prove that he or she is the “true” conservative in the race. This has led to some startling moments, and convinced Democrats that their candidate, former Points of Light Foundation leader Michelle Nunn, could steal the seat currently held by retiring Republican senator Saxby Chambliss.
The three candidates who currently serve in Congress will get their latest chance to prove their right-wing bona fides on Thursday, when the House votes on Ryan’s latest “Path to Prosperity.” It appears that all three will take it; The Hill reports that Broun and Gingrey plan to vote “no” on the budget because it does not cut enough from the budget, while Kingston is a “definitely lean no” because the plan does not cut discretionary spending to at least sequester levels.
Broun — who infamously trashed Ryan’s previous budget for “nibbling around the edges” — has already released a web ad trumpeting his opposition to “a budget that spends billions we don’t have,” in typically over-the-top fashion:
That spirited opposition could very well make a difference in the crowded Republican primary. But by insisting that Ryan’s budget does not cut enough, the three congressmen are essentially writing Nunn’s next campaign ad for her. The Ryan plan is genuinely extreme: 69 percent of its $4.8 trillion in non-defense budget cuts would come from programs that benefit Americans with low or moderate incomes, such as Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, the Social Services Block Grant, and Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled. It would end Medicare as we know it by converting it to a premium-support voucher. And while the poor are asked to pay through the nose, it would give millionaires an average tax cut of $200,000.
Even in reliably red Georgia, this is well outside of the mainstream. But in the Republican primary, it’s now the liberal position.
Thus far, Nunn has ridden her carefully constructed moderate image to a virtual tie in the polls. If her Republican rivals go through with their austere suicide pact, she could find herself in the lead before long. And Republicans could find themselves wondering why they once again let their right flank ruin a golden chance at a Senate majority.