The landslide defeat of Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), who lost his Republican primary last night by a whopping 71%-29% margin against Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy, could provide a stern warning to Republicans everywhere: If you deviate from the talk-radio and Tea Party line, this could happen to you.
In interviews this morning, two separate Republican sources cited to me two key events in Inglis’s political downfall: When he told a town hall meeting last year to turn off Glenn Beck, and when he voted with House Democrats in September 2009 to reprimand Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) for yelling “You lie” at President Obama during a speech to Congress. Other factors that were cited included Inglis’s vote for the TARP bailout — an issue that also helped sink Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) at his state Republican convention in May — and his work on the issue of climate change.
“It’s one thing to be moderate on a couple things. It’s another thing to go out of your way to essentially insult your own base,” said one GOP source, who also added: “This is why people are forced to apologize to Rush Limbaugh if they say something fairly negative about him. You cannot be pro-actively poking your finger in the eye of your base.”
Inglis was first elected to the House in 1992, serving three terms before losing a 1998 Senate race against incumbent Democrat Ernest Hollings. In 2004, when Inglis’s House successor Jim DeMint successfully ran to replace the retiring Hollings in the Senate, Inglis came back and won his old seat again — only to lose it after another three terms. Speaking last night, Inglis declared, “the result was I haven’t been a very good match with the partisans.”
Gowdy had previously come in ahead in the first-round primary two weeks ago, with 39% to Inglis’s 28% — a result that was essentially the death-knell for the incumbent.
Inglis did try to tap into the anti-incumbent feelings across the country, by putting up an ad casting himself as a maverick reformer working within Congress — and interestingly enough, invoking the name of Joe Wilson:
“When Joe Wilson said ‘You lie,’ he should’ve pointed at every member of Congress,” Inglis said in the ad. “I know you want to change Washington, and I know what it will take: The truth.”
At a certain point, Inglis just threw caution to the wind. In the home stretch of the primary, he appeared on the Colbert Report, in an interview making fun of his dire straits. Inglis even jokingly declared himself to be a Birther during the interview, in a comedic effort to win back the GOP base.
And in the end, joking about your base being Birthers who should turn off Glenn Beck gets you 29% of the vote.