The defeat of moderate Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana has most likely sent shivers down the spine of Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and given some hope to Georgia Democrats. Lugar, known for his willingness to find common ground and to exhibit a common sense approach to difficult national issues, went down to defeat to Richard Mourdock, Tea Party darling and the current Indiana State Treasurer. Mourdock made it clear in his victory speech that “compromise” may as well be a four letter word, which begs to question whether moderate Republicans stand a chance in the Republican party.
The Tea Party’s “take no prisoners” political attitude doesn’t bode well for Chambliss. Chambliss, a member of the media named “Gang of Six”, tried and failed to approach the Federal budget with a modicum of common sense and make reforms in government spending that were recommended by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. Chambliss has evolved a modest history of bi-partisanship in the last two years, which may very well cause him to be “primaried” in 2014 from a Tea Partier of the Georgia variety.
Getting to the right of Saxby Chambliss for most of his Senate service is like squeezing into one leg of a pair of skinny jeans, so it remains to be seen who emerges from the far right here in Georgia to challenge him. However, the good news for Georgia Democrats is that a Tea Party challenge to Chambliss might create openings for Democrats who are rumored to have statewide political aspirations. Nationally this challenge could open up the “Gang of Six” for a new Republican member. After all, political pundits in Indiana note that the defeat of Richard Lugar combined with the hard-nosed political approach of Mourdock, may allow Independent voters to unite behind Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in November.
Democrats in Georgia should be taking notes. Extreme views may play well in primaries, but most independent voters want a candidate who, as our First Grade teachers noted on our report cards, “plays well with others.” Chambliss hasn’t always played well with others, but his hints of bipartisanship may make it hard for him to get out of a Tea Party infused primary in 2014.
This could give a strong Democrat challenger an opportunity to win the Senate seat, because anyone that is to the right of Chambliss would be considered a fringe candidate to most independent voters. In addition, the Republican nominee will not be able to use the power of incumbency to their advantage when it comes to fundraising. Three years is a lifetime in politics, but once again we see the light at the end of the tunnel for Georgia Democrats.