A handful of conservative business leaders gathered Friday at the second floor of a bustling Midtown office tower to celebrate their favored U.S. Senate candidate. Rep. Jack Kingston, winner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's endorsement, beamed alongside them, enjoying the first fruits of the victory.
"We've found our candidate in Jack Kingston," said Rob Engstrom, the Chamber's national political director. "He's the conservative candidate we trust and he's got the record to prove it."
Engstrom said five of seven GOP candidates sought the endorsement, which has brought Kingston a burst of TV ads and support from high-profile business leaders. That made it all the more curious that one of them, Rep. Paul Broun, reacted so harshly to the news.
"It should come as no surprise that the establishment-serving U.S. Chamber of Commerce would endorse longtime Congressman and King of Pork, Jack Kingston," Broun said in a statement.
We've noted before that Kingston's background as a powerful voice on the House Appropriations Committee could come back to haunt him. But Engstrom said Kingston's votes on earmarks only played a small role in the group's decision. He said the Savannah Republican landed a rating near 90 percent on more than 400 issues the group has closely tracked.
"He's someone we rely on to get something done," said Engstrom.
Kingston dismissed a few recent polls that show rising support for businessman David Perdue and former secretary of state Karen Handel, arguing that a super PAC wouldn't be targeting him with blistering attack ads now if he was in third place.
Kingston’s poll put him at the top of the pack and Perdue at No. 2, and the Savannah congressman’s language at the event reflected that.
He never mentioned Handel but took aim at Perdue, saying the former Fortune 500 executive has a "long history of laying off people and getting golden parachutes." (Perdue's camp, it should be noted, says their candidate is the only one in the race with bona fide business experience.)
As for Broun's attacks?
"Sour grapes and rhetoric that doesn't ring true," said Kingston.