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Will Rep. Paul Broun be Karl Rove's first 'unelectable' target?

Karl Rove says his new political group isn't aiming to defeat tea party candidates – just poor politicians. Rep. Paul Broun, who is running for Senate in Georgia, may be the group's first test case.

By Correspondent / February 6, 2013

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia, seen here at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., last month, is leaving the Senate. Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia is running to replace him.

AJ Reynolds/The Athens Banner-Herald/AP

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Karl Rove may be trying to quell conservative concerns that his new political group is really an effort to crush the tea party. But actions will speak louder than words – and already, Mr. Rove's group may have a test case on its hands.

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Correspondent

Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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Rove's Conservative Victory Project has a stated goal of making sure only electable candidates emerge victorious from GOP primaries. But he told Fox News Tuesday: "This is not tea party versus the establishment."

So what is it? The campaign of Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia, who on Wednesday filed paperwork to run for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, could provide clues.

He is exactly the kind of candidate that, in theory, Rove's group would want to weed out. Ultra-conservative on both social and fiscal matters, Congressman Broun has amassed a reputation for making inflammatory and controversial statements during his time in Congress. A doctor, he gained national attention last fall when he said at a sportsman's banquet that "all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big-bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell." At the same event, he also said he believed Earth was less than 9,000 years old and was created in six days.

A member of the Tea Party Caucus, Broun ran unopposed in the last election, but some 4,000 voters in his district wrote in "Charles Darwin" on the ballot. He sits on the House Science Committee, where former Rep. Todd Akin – whose infamous remarks about rape and pregnancy led to a GOP Senate loss last fall in Missouri, and who has been held up as a model of the type of candidate Rove's new group would like to squash – also happened to serve.

Back in 2008, Broun compared Obama's proposal for a new civilian reserve security force to "what Hitler did in Nazi Germany," telling the Associated Press: "I'm not comparing [Obama] to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."

And last month, Broun told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that "the only Constitution that Barack Obama upholds is the Soviet constitution, not this one. He has no concept of this one, though he claimed to be a constitutional lawyer."   

Lately, with the Georgia Senate race clearly in his sights, he's taken some conspicuously far-right stands: Not only has he voted against all of the recent fiscal deals, but he was one of a handful of members to vote against John Boehner for speaker. (He told reporters that, under Mr. Boehner's leadership, Congress had "failed to address the root of our nation's fiscal crisis.") Instead, he cast his vote for former Rep. Allen West of Florida, another member with a penchant for bomb-throwing. 

Georgia is, of course, a solidly red state – one where Democrats typically would have little chance of winning an open Senate race. But, just as some of the upper Southern states such as North Carolina and Virginia have recently been trending more purple, many analysts believe changing demographics may at some point soon start to give Democrats a better chance in the Peach State. 

If Broun were to emerge from what is likely to be a crowded primary field as the state's Republican Senate nominee, it could give Democrats a decent shot at a takeover in what otherwise be hostile territory. As Georgia Democratic strategist Stefan Turkheimer put it to Real Clear Politics last month: “In order for [a Democratic victory] to occur, you have to get a decent candidate on the Dem side. But you also have to get someone coming out of the Flat Earth Society primary on the Republican side, who’s seen nationally as being ridiculous.”

Broun could be that "someone." We await the verdict of Rove and his new group.

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