Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) was first elected to the US House of Representative in 1980. Hall, 91, was seeking his 18th term in office this year. However, it appears that the oldest member of Congress will be forced to retire in January as Hall was defeated on Tuesday in a Republican primary runoff election. With nearly all of the precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Hall trailed opponent John Ratcliffe by six points, 53% – 47%. Ratcliffe finished in second during the original primary election in March. Hall beat Ratcliffe by 17 points at that time, 45% to 28%. However, a runoff was required as Hall didn’t garner a majority of the vote.
In the weeks leading up to the runoff, Ratcliffe decided to aggressively attack Hall and even self-financed his campaign by giving it $400,000 of his own money. Ratcliffe painted himself as the anti-establishment candidate, pointing out Hall’s long tenure in Congress and eventually bringing up Hall’s advanced age. Hall tried to fire back by questioning whether Ratcliffe was conservative enough for the district. Ratcliffe’s background as an attorney was brought up as a way to discredit him. However, Hall’s first 24 years in Congress was as a Democrat. He switched parties in 2004 due partly to his long friendship with the Bushes. The Iraq War and redistricting in the state also factored in.
With Ratcliffe making a solid push to defeat Hall in the runoff, Hall’s campaign decided to call in some favors and get some ‘big’ names to endorse the incumbent. With Ratcliffe positioning himself as a Washington outsider and an anti-government conservative, Hall felt that he needed to get some hard-core conservatives and Tea Party darlings to vouch for him. One no-brainer was former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), godfather of the Tea Party movement. With the district located in Texas, Paul’s endorsement was definitely coveted. Another well-known conservative figure, former Arkansas Governor and current talk-show host Mike Huckabee, also publicly endorsed Hall.
At the end of April, Hall received an endorsement from none other than Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a prominent figure in the Tea Party movement and a one-time Presidential candidate. Bachmann, who is retiring at the end of her term this year rather than face another close re-election like she did in 2012, decided to ‘help’ Hall during this election by offering up her support. She gave the following statement when offering her endorsement:
“It is a great honor to endorse Ralph Hall, a fellow Constitutional Conservative. He is a true patriot who has fought for our great country in defense of the values and principles we hold dear. In Congress, Ralph Hall has been a leader in the fight against Obamacare, a strong advocate of enforcing our immigration laws, and stood firm on securing our borders. The people of the 4th District are fortunate to have Ralph Hall fighting for them.”
Pretty much a by-the-numbers endorsement from Bachmann. Well, it appears that getting an endorsement from a lame-duck Congresswoman who is currently under investigation by the FEC, FBI, House Ethics Committee, Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and Urbandale Police Department isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. While it may seem like a good idea to court the crazy base by bringing in a bona-fide idiot like Bachmann to vouch for you, it tends to backfire more often than not. All we need to do is look at Sarah Palin’s record of late when it comes to endorsing candidates.
Hall probably thought getting Bachmann’s endorsement was going to show his district’s voters that he was the ‘true conservative.’ In fact, that is pretty much what his campaign said right after she gave her statement of support.
“Congressman Hall is honored to have the support of Michele Bachmann. This sends a clear message as to who the true conservative is in this race. Ralph Hall has a consistent record of standing up for family values, defending the Second Amendment and working to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
However, when a candidate goes on a quest to prove to his constituency that he’s the most conservative, that candidate tends to find himself associating with people and organizations that are nowhere near as popular or credible as he wants to believe they are. This is the case with Bachmann. To the vast majority of people, even those in deep-red districts, she is seen as a loon. A wacko bird. If you go after her to endorse you as a candidate, you may find yourself losing a lot of credibility with the voters. Even if you are a 17-term Congressman who has represented the district for 34 years.