In recent elections, primary challengers against GOP incumbents have come almost exclusively from the right. But in the House, we’re seeing signs of an establishment backlash, challenging tea party and iconoclastic members from the middle.
— The center of the opposition is in the suburbs of Michigan, where the business community has been dissatisfied with Rep. Justin Amash, a Ron Paul acolyte, and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, a part-time reindeer rancher who bumbled into a House seat. Bentivolio already faces a primary challenge from attorney David Trott. Businessman Brian Ellis is expected to run against Amash. And former Bush aide Taylor Griffin just announced a campaign against anti-war North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones.
— There are signs these challengers will be credible. Trott reported raising more money in the third quarter than Bentivolio did in the first half of the year. Amash represents an urban Grand Rapids district where the business community holds more sway than the tea party. Jones has beaten back primary challenges before, but Griffin should run a better-organized campaign than his predecessors.
— While the GOP’s internal divisions over Obamacare tactics could spark more tea party primary challenges, they haven’t emerged yet. The Club for Growth has only endorsed one challenger, Bryan Smith, running against Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson. (Other incumbents to watch: Reps. Bill Shuster, Frank Lucas and Renee Ellmers.) That’s a testament to conservative success in shaping the GOP caucus, but there aren’t many battles left to be won.
There’s long been a divide between the GOP’s business wing and populist factions, with the former usually winning out. But with the business wing losing sway, they’re showing signs of emulating the tactics of the feisty opposition.
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