ATLANTA — A few former volunteers from Organizing For Action, the successor to the Obama re-election organization, are launching a campaign to counter the campaigns of Republican Senate hopefuls.
The Athens-based group, taking the name Trust 2014, seeks to steer independents toward a candidate less conservative. In fact, they wouldn’t mind if Democrat Michelle Nunn won, but the organization is trying to appear nonpartisan.
According to Michael Smith, one of the organizers, Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston are so eager for conservative votes and campaign contributions that they are duping supporters with unachievable promises. Topping the list, Smith said, is the promise to halt Obamacare.
Smith notes that the legislation creating the federal health reforms designated funding for the program as entitlements are exempt from the kind of routine funding decisions Congress makes as part of its appropriations process. As such, defunding the Affordable Care Act essentially requires repeal of the law that entitled beneficiaries to the funds in the first place.
So, Trust 2014 says Broun, Gingrey, Kingston and the various leaders of the tea party movement are being disingenuous when they pledge to defund Obamacare. Repeal is almost impossible, politically, as long as Democrats control the Senate and White House, according to Smith, so pledging to work toward it is tantamount to lying to get votes.
Of course, it’s true that Democrats can block repeal, but it’s also true that they could change their stance if Republicans forced them to, however unlikely that may be in the current assessment of conventional wisdom.
Trust 2014 issued a press release Friday laying the blame for the government shutdown at the feet of Broun, because he’s a close associate with national tea party leaders who live in Georgia. Kingston and Gingrey are also to blame, it said, because they employ the same rhetoric.
And because the trio voted against Obamacare and other liberal legislation in Congress, they’re obviously hard-hearted, Trust 2014 reasons.
“Congressmen Broun, Kingston and Gingrey all have consistently shown flagrant disregard for the well-being of typical American families, especially women and children,” said Caroline Daniel Ramsey, lead adviser and treasurer for Trust 2014.
One of the aims of Trust 2014 is to cool the tempers that the tea party has inflamed and to foster a civil discourse about national issues. But Smith says there are limits.
“We’re not in necessarily a civil discourse with Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey because they don’t necessarily deserve it,” he said.
Asked if he thought Ramsey’s comment fostered civil discourse or the possibility that Broun, Kingston and Gingrey may have as much regard for the wellbeing of women and children but favor a different solution, Smith made no apologies for Trust 2014’s use of incendiary rhetoric.
“Just because we’re trying to establish a center ground doesn’t mean we have to be soft toward these politicians,” he said.
The organizers hope to raise $150,000 or about what they estimate a typical congressional candidate would have available to mount a campaign. Their strategy is to tow a barbecue grill on a trailer around the state and to hold a series of community discussions lubricated with the pork and beef grease, a strategy that deflated animosity when they tried it for OFA in Athens during June, 2009, and later in Evans and Homer.
“The only rule of the discussion is that we respect each other’s ideas,” Smith said.
How effective Trust 2014 may be remains to be seen. Most successful congressional campaigns raise 10 times more than $150,000 these days, and the winning Senate candidate here will likely spend around $10 million.
Plus, Smith acknowledges Georgia Republicans have favored conservative candidates long before the tea party formed and they likely will next year. That’s why all of the GOP Senate hopefuls are running so far to the right, not because Broun or the tea party created some new need for them to.
The Republican primary isn’t the ultimate goal. The general election is.
Trust 2014 isn’t trying to sway the votes of Republicans or even all of the independents, just enough swing voters to tip an election.
“We’re trying to influence 5, 6, 7 percent of the vote,” Smith said.
(Walter Jones is the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News and has been covering Georgia politics since 1998. Follow him on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and (404) 589-8424.)