At the Rotary Club in LaGrange, Georgia, Rep. Jack Kingston answered every question, shook every hand he was offered with a “thanks, man,” or a “yes, sir,” and stooped quickly to pick up a business card that had fallen from a woman’s purse.
In his pursuit of the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Saxby Chambliss, Kingston left his audience with the impression that he is friendly, reasonable, and entirely competent. But in a GOP primary packed with Tea Party pleasers, pro-life crusaders, gun lovers, and a millionaire whose cousin is a former governor, being friendly, reasonable and entirely competent may be Jack Kingston’s biggest problem.
“I think he was pretty much right on it,” said Danny Graddy, a Republican and financial planner from Pine Mountain, Ga., who got what he was looking for in Kingston’s Rotary speech, which focused on preserving America’s military, supporting agriculture in the state, balancing the federal budget and ending the gridlock in Washington. “But being right on it and getting elected are two different things.”
“Whoever we nominate, they have to make sure that they are appealing to a broad base,” said Eric Tanenblatt, a top adviser to former Gov. Sonny Purdue, the late Sen. Paul Coverdell and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
“The Republican primary electorate is very different from the electorate you’ll see in the general election. If all you are going to do is try to appeal to the most conservative elements of the Republican primary electorate, it’s going to make it very difficult for you to move to the center to win independent voters.”