Chamber Of Commerce To Endorse Mary Landrieu In Louisiana Senate Race?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been at the center of many of the “Establishment v. Tea Party” battles that we’ve seen during the 2014 primary season, generally backing incumbents and candidates closer to the traditional idea of Republican conservatism over candidates supported by Tea Party groups and national organizations such as FreedomWorks. The Chamber has also been a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the renewal of the Export-Import Bank, two issues that the Tea Party and its affiliated groups have been strongly opposed to for years now. Not surprisingly, this has led to no small degree of infighting on the right between these two wings of the Republican coalition, especially since the Chamber and its establishment allies have been largely victorious in this year’s primary battles.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is reportedly throwing support behind Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), according to the group’s national political director, Rob Engstrom.
Engstrom told the audience at a Committee of 100 meeting that the group would support Landrieu in her fight to win re-election, according to The New York Times’ Joe Nocera.
Landrieu’s major Republican challenger is Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce scorecard said Landrieu votes for pro-business legislation more often than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), according to The Wall Street Journal.
It is possible that the chamber didn’t quite realize what it was getting when it helped elect those Tea Party freshmen in 2010 — few people did until they began to flex their muscles. But it is equally possible that it didn’t care. (“The chamber is not an arm of either party and is not ‘aligned’ with either party,” a spokesman told me in an email.)
In the 16 years he has run the Chamber of Commerce, Donohue has turned it into a potent force, in no small part by making it more partisan. But by being so blindly pro-Republican, the chamber “unleashed a Frankenstein that has spun out of control,” said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which monitors the Chamber of Commerce. That became most clear during the debt ceiling and deficit fights of the last few years — when the Tea Party Republicans seemed so determined to shrink government that they were even willing to default on the government’s debt. The chamber reacted in horror.
I’m told that after the 2012 election, at yet another Committee of 100 gathering, a former Democratic congressman, Dave McCurdy, who now runs the American Gas Association, stood up and criticized Donohue for his “all-in” Republican strategy. He told Donohue that everybody in the room was pro-business, but they weren’t all Republicans, and that if the chamber really wanted to be effective again, it needed to take on the Tea Party and the right wing of the Republican Party in favor of more moderate candidates of both parties.
As the 2014 midterms near, that seems to be the approach the Chamber of Commerce is taking. It has gotten involved in Republican primaries, siding with the more moderate Republican in a race — though perhaps it is more accurate to say the less radical Republican. At the most recent Committee of 100 meeting, Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, told the group that the chamber planned to support Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who is running for re-election to the Senate.
Better late than never.
This isn’t entirely surprising. The Chamber had endorsed Landrieu in 2008, and, as The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this year the organization has discovered that it may have more in common with Democrats like Landrieu than Tea Party people like Ted Cruz. What would would slightly odd about the Chamber endorsing Landrieu, though, is both the fact that it could tip the balance in the battle for Senate control, where the group still seems to think that a GOP win would be in its interests, and that Landrieu’s opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy, is generally the type of Republican that the Chamber has been supporting this year.
For what its worth, the Chamber is saying that no decisions have been made:
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) July 28, 2014
Nonetheless, keep an eye on this one.