Stopping the Next Todd Akin

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) speaks during the 'Exempt America from Obamacare' rally, on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. Some conservative lawmakers are making a push to try to defund the health care law as part of the debates over the budget and funding the federal government.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Nov. 15, 2013, 6:25 a.m.

MARI­ETTA, Ga. — Re­pub­lic­an strategists, from At­lanta to Wash­ing­ton, are deeply con­cerned that Rep. Paul Broun could be the party’s Sen­ate nom­in­ee in the Geor­gia Sen­ate race — and it scares the beje­sus out of them. They fear the con­tro­versy-court­ing Broun could cost the GOP the Peach State’s open Sen­ate seat and em­bar­rass the party na­tion­ally. He’s poised to be this elec­tion’s ver­sion of Todd Akin. So how can they stop him?

— Some Re­pub­lic­ans urge the party just to ig­nore him. At­tack­ing him on air will give act­iv­ists wary of the es­tab­lish­ment someone to rally around, and it might even draw a con­ser­vat­ive out­side group to come to his aid. Bet­ter-fun­ded can­did­ates like Rep. Jack King­ston or busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due can handle Broun, who has struggled to raise cash, on their own.

— Oth­er GOP lead­ers ac­know­ledge that al­though stay­ing off air might be wise, that doesn’t mean they should ig­nore him. They want Re­pub­lic­an primary voters in Geor­gia, in­clud­ing tea party act­iv­ists, to know what’s in Broun’s back­ground. Don’t be sur­prised to soon see a flurry of crit­ic­al stor­ies in the na­tion­al and loc­al me­dia. And of note: Amer­ic­an Cross­roads says it will share its op­pos­i­tion re­search on Akin-like can­did­ates with oth­er out­side groups, es­tab­lish­ment and con­ser­vat­ive alike.

— The race’s big wild­card: When do Demo­crats, as they did with Akin, start run­ning thinly-dis­guised TV ads meant to boost Broun? Re­pub­lic­ans uni­ver­sally ex­pect it will hap­pen, and they’re not sure how they will re­spond.

Demo­crat­ic Michelle Nunn awaits who­ever emerges from the Re­pub­lic­an field and has been work­ing over­time to court mod­er­ates and in­de­pend­ents. If Broun is the GOP op­pon­ent, she may very well start the race as the fa­vor­ite. Re­pub­lic­ans are work­ing to make sure she doesn’t get the chance.

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