Big Chamber of Commerce ad buys in NC, GA primaries
The Chamber of Commerce is taking a hand in Senate primaries, running millions of dollars in ads touting more establishment candidates in North Carolina and Georgia.
"We will aggressively support those candidates who plan to campaign on a free enterprise and growth agenda, have the courage to govern and the ability to win," said Rob Engstrom, national political director for the Chamber.
The GOP needs to gain six seats to seize the majority in the Senate, and emboldened Republicans, pointing to President Barack Obama's unpopularity, are bullish about their chances.
The North Carolina primary is next Tuesday, Georgia two weeks later. The Chamber will begin airing ads Wednesday for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston.
"Thom Tillis, a bold conservative who balanced our budgets and reduced regulations," intones an announcer in the North Carolina commercial that criticizes first-term Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. "Conservative Thom Tillis. He'll fight Washington instead of joining them."
Tillis is trying to avoid a costly runoff by securing 40 percent of the vote in the May 6 primary against two chief rivals, tea party favorite Greg Brannon and minister Mark Harris. That would give him more time to focus on Hagan, one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
The ad makes no mention of Tillis' GOP rivals.
"We believe he is the only candidate who can beat Kay Hagan," Engstrom said of Tillis.
The total Chamber spending was not immediately available, but Engstrom described it as one of the organization's largest financial commitments. The Chamber has spent tens of millions of dollars in previous elections for Senate and House candidates.
Kingston hopes to finish in the top two in the contentious Georgia primary. With a 50 percent vote threshold, a July 22 runoff is all but certain. Republicans fear they could lose the seat held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss if they fail to nominate a mainstream Republican against Michelle Nunn, the moderate Democrat and daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn.
The 30-second ad focuses solely on Kingston, calling him a "conservative fighter" and a "consistent conservative getting big government out of the way of Georgia job creation."
This election cycle the Chamber has repeatedly taken sides in the internal fight pitting the GOP establishment against conservative activists, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in his Kentucky primary against Matt Bevin and for eight-term Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho in his race against tea party-favorite Bryan Smith.
Supporting incumbents I can understand. But why in the primary? This will do nothing to uinite the party after a bruising primary in both states. In North Carolina, Brannon is polling as well as Tillis against Hagan, while in Georgia, Kingston trails Perdue by 6. Local Republicans are perfectly capable of picking winners without the help of the Chamber of Commerce.
All the Chamber is accomplishing is to alienate the base and make it harder for the eventual primary victor to win in November.