In results Tuesday night that surprised many political pundits, former Rep. Bob Barr placed a weak second in the Republican primary in Georgia's 11th Congressional District.
Opponents were quick to claim that the former House Judiciary Committee member's 2009 letter of endorsement for Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general was pivotal in his disappointing showing.
Barr, onetime Clinton impeachment manager and 2008 Libertarian Party nominee for president, trailed former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk by a margin of 36.6 percent to 25.8 percent in a four-candidate race.
The two will meet in a runoff on July 22, with the winner almost sure to succeed outgoing GOP Rep. Phil Gingrey, who failed to make the runoff in his bid for a Senate seat.
Loudermilk, a U.S. Air Force veteran, courted tea party groups with his vow not to raise the debt ceiling unless major changes in policy are made. He also had a strong following among values voters with his record of support for traditional marriage and pro-life legislation.
After more than 22 years in politics, Barr, 65, was considered the best-known GOP hopeful in the suburban Atlanta district and likely to place first in the primary.
But Loudermilk, who represented roughly half of the 11th District as a state legislator, contrasted his own solidly conservative positions on cultural and economic issues with Barr's shifting stances over the years on marijuana for medical use, abortion, and the Patriot Act.
But it was Barr's letter of endorsement for Holder, Loudermilk's team agreed, that was most fatal to the former congressman.
As Loudermilk reminded voters that his leading opponent had once supported the attorney general behind Operation Fast and Furious and the opposition to voter ID laws, Barr explained that "my letter was based on my professional association with Holder during his time as an attorney in private practice during the Bush administration."
Loudermilk spokesman Dan McLagan told Newsmax: "Barry showed he is the consistent conservative in this race. Once Barry was able to show voters that Bob Barr endorsed Eric Holder for attorney general, Barr started dropping and never stopped. The comparison between Barry and Bob is clear, and voters will see it again on July 22."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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