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The Empire Strikes Back

Taking a gander: Amash
©2013 Richard A. Bloom
Josh Kraushaar
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Josh Kraushaar
Oct. 4, 2013, 7:40 a.m.

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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