Something for Tom Price to Consider: Isakson is Really Conservative and Really Running Again
Matt Towery, Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate
We know that Congressman Paul Broun has already announced for the Chambliss Senate seat that will be available in 2014 and that Congressmen Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey are also likely participants in the GOP primary for that seat (Kingston basically a definite, Gingrey a strong maybe). But the man who might have the strongest chance at the start of a GOP battle, Rep. Tom Price, has gone from a likely candidate to a less than confident “I’ll let you know in May” potential candidate. So what gives?
It might be that Price has determined that his higher profile role in the U.S. House is worth preserving for a few more years. After all, isn’t Johnny Isakson in the same sort of “vulnerable” position in which Chambliss found himself earlier this year? And isn’t Johnny Isakson secretly planning on retiring. Well, the answer to both of those questions is “no” and “no” again.
Understand that any poll of any U.S. Senator four years out from reelection will make the incumbent look vulnerable. That’s because U.S. Senators from large states just cannot stay in the news every single day, unlike governors who can…and that means that their name identification among those less interested in politics drops substantially over those years between elections. But polling an incumbent like Isakson or Chambliss more than six months before their race is fruitless. In fact, I would argue that Chambliss would in fact have won the GOP’s nomination had he chosen to run again, regardless of what some analysts might suggest.
In Isakson’s case reelection is not even an issue. Just this Thursday he was awarded the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Award for being among the top 20 percent of Senators and Congressmen voting “the right way” on key conservative issues and that is no insignificant accomplishment. Isakson was a Republican when most politicians in Georgia were afraid to even utter the word, much less run as one. And, fortunately for Republicans, enough independent voters like him to guarantee that he would not become the first Republican Senator to lose to a Democrat as Georgia continues to transition back from red to purple on the political map.
As for whether Isakson is in fact running, he’s already answered that over and over again. He told the AJC he was running in 2016. He told InsiderAdvantage that he was running in 2016. He basically has told anyone who would listen that he running again. So absent something occurring that no one can imagine, Johnny Isakson will be a candidate, will win nomination, and will win another term in the U.S. Senate in 2016.
This brings us to the issue of a potential Senate run by Congressman/Dr. Tom Price. Price is an often underestimated politician. He’s disciplined, sharp on message, and obviously ambitious. And he comes from the latest epicenter of the Georgia GOP. If he’s waiting for a bid for the Senate based on an Isakson retirement, he may have a long wait. And he simply could never defeat Isakson, which he certainly understands.
So are the bright lights of Congress based on his prior involvement as leader of the House GOP Study Committee enough to keep Price in the House of Representatives? Perhaps that would have been the case prior to the “fiscal cliff” negotiations between a then seemingly suspect (to conservatives) Speaker Boehner and President Obama. But following that debacle the Speaker found his true “conservative self”, and trust this from a guy who has known a former Speaker pretty well, he is not going back to his old ways—these guys get the message (that is, usually). He knows his goose would be cooked, as it almost was in January, if he ever strays from the conservative path again.
That leaves Price without the portfolio he enjoyed just a year earlier. No one needs a conservative alternative to leadership if leadership is rock solid conservative. So why would a guy who can raise money, is likeable, and has strong conservative credentials not take a chance at a Senate seat he might well win? Of course there are answers like “I care more about doing the people’s business in my current role,” which would sound phony coming from most elected officials, but not coming from Price.
All of that said, Rep. Price will soon have to decide if he wants to be a U.S. Senator or not. Had I been asked to handicap the race with all potential players in I would have given slightly better odds to Price, then to Kingston, with Gingrey close in the group as well. But as everyone knows, the wildcard is Congressman Broun who has been underestimated before and might well be again. The next few months will decide the Republicans who compete for the open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia in 2014. But as for 2016, let me put it this way-- Johnny Isakson has often joked that the only way to stop an elected official from running again is embalming fluid--and Johnny Isakson is healthy both personally and politically. Congressman Price will likely have to make his choice very quickly or plan on becoming a significant but not so rising star in the House.