FORT OGLETHORPE, Ga. — Just down the road from where Union troops suffered their worst defeat of the Civil War, Jeff Epperson sang the praises of his congressman, Representative Tom Graves, whose Defund Obamacare Act set the table for the partial government shutdown.
Even though business has been slow at Mr. Epperson’s sword and knife shop since tourists stopped visiting the historic Chickamauga battlefield, which closed on Tuesday because of the furlough of federal workers in the shutdown, he said the only thing that would weaken his support for Mr. Graves would be if the congressman caved in now. In that case, he might vote for a more conservative choice in the next Republican primary.
“If he backs off, then I would say absolutely I’d be inclined to look for someone else,” said Mr. Epperson, whose store flew a Don’t Tread on Me flag.
The Republican insistence in the House on tying financing of the federal government to dismantling the Affordable Care Act is being driven by a deeply conservative caucus from places like Mr. Graves’s 14th Congressional District, newly created by Georgia’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
Even as Republican elders warn that the party is risking a voter backlash that could cost it in future elections, interviews here indicate that hard-liners like Mr. Graves have more to fear, if they waver, from a potential challenger to their right.
Mr. Graves, 43, won 73 percent of the vote in November in a district that is 85 percent white and has a 16.6 percent college graduation rate. A journey through the district, which stretches from the exurbs of Atlanta to the northwest mountains on the Tennessee border, found many voters who, even if they were unfamiliar with Mr. Graves’s biography, strongly supported him.