While polling on the race is mixed, the amount of money being invested is a sure sign that this district is very much in play.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $320,000 in the race, and conservative outside groups are also smelling blood. The third-party group American Future Fund has spent more than $350,000 on the race, while another group, the Center for Individual Freedom, went up with a five-figure ad buy this week. Americans for Tax Reform has also dropped money in the district against Marshall. One third-party group supporting Marshall is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been much maligned by national Democratic leaders for supporting mostly Republicans.
As they did just before the 2008 elections with his vote for the Wall Street bailout bill, Republicans are painting Marshall’s vote for the stimulus bill this cycle as a sign that he is in the pocket of his party leadership when they need him.
At last week’s debate, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity sent a pair of employees to hand out leaflets that discussed Marshall’s support of “Nancy Pelosi’s failed, wasteful spending.”
At a breakfast meeting hosted by the local Farm Bureau in Wilcox County, Marshall acknowledged that even he can’t keep up with all the attacks that are being run against him.
“I can’t be running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to respond to all this different stuff. I just need to stay steady,” Marshall said. “Hopefully people know who I am, what I stand for, that I am not one of these nut cases on both sides.”
Marshall was the first Member in 2008 to release a commercial explaining to voters that while he didn’t like the bank bailout bill, he thought it was necessary. He’s taking the same approach on the stimulus bill.
Marshall told the farm group that if Congress had not passed the stimulus, the country’s gross domestic product would be 11.5 percent lower than what it is today and that about 8.5 million more people would be out of work.
“Most folks don’t understand that, and they’re mad that we had to do it, and I’m mad that we had to do it,” Marshall said. “But we had to do it, and I’ll take my licks, but I’m not going to back off and not do what needs to be done.”
In the end, the race will likely come down to whether voters believe Marshall’s middle path has been an effective one.
“These so-called Blue Dog [Democrats] haven’t had any influence,” said Warner Robins resident and Air Force veteran Bill Thornton. Marshall is “a nice guy, but he’s been quiet too long. I don’t think he has any power or influence in his party.”
Rochelle resident Pete Peebles, who works in the timber business, described Marshall as a “practical, commonsense Congressman.”
Peebles said he is certainly concerned about government spending.
“My granddad said, ‘You can’t drink yourself sober, you can’t spend yourself rich and you can’t borrow yourself out of debt,’” he said.
But Peebles thinks Marshall has taken a stand on the health care reform bill and other pieces of legislation that have unnecessarily increased government spending.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.