WASHINGTON • Fresh from helping save Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi from a tea party upstart, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on the verge of endorsing an embattled Senate Democrat. According to the New York Times's Joe Nocera, national political director Rob Engstrom told the heads of the chamber's regional groups that the mother ship planned to support Louisiana's Mary L. Landrieu in a close race against three Republicans.
The chamber has always liked Landrieu, giving her its Spirit of Enterprise award nine times since 2002. And the chamber has lately been rethinking its blind support of Republicans when it means filling Congress with tea partyers. Any ninny could have seen that tea party Republicans would hate the chamber almost as much as the government they want to shrink to the size of a pea. The tea party sprung to life being against much of what the chamber is for: Wall Street bailouts, President Barack Obama's stimulus package, saving Chrysler and General Motors, raising the debt-ceiling, and keeping the government open. Right now, the Republican House the chamber helped create is blocking immigration reform and a long-term highway bill, while trying to kill the business-friendly Export-Import Bank as an example of corporate welfare.
Things didn't work out so well for the Chamber in 2012. According to the Washington Post, chamber-backed candidates lost in 13 of the 15 Senate races, and four of the 22 House races, it spent money on. This cycle, the chamber has poured money into Republican primaries to smother the tea party. Siding with the more pro-establishment Republican in each case, the chamber has won 10 intraparty fights, including the Mississippi race in which Karl Rove's American Crossroads gave up on Cochran. Even Republican incumbents are no longer safe from the chamber, which is endorsing the Republican challenger to Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a major thorn in the side of House Speaker John Boehner.