To anyone in the liberty movement within the GOP who has been paying attention it is very clear that there is a struggle between the liberty wing (libertarian, Tea Party, etc.) and the established or governing wing. After the 2010 and 2012 elections where scores of liberty aligned GOP candidates won primaries and general elections - their presence is starting to be felt in Congress and state houses all over the country.
The "establishment", which can best be described as those in the positions of power within both parties who seek to maintain the status quo in government (perpetual growth and spending) do not appreciate the challenge to their smoothly running machine. Those who benefit the most from the status quo (large businesses that get special government privileges, private government contractors, politicians, and government employees and pensioners) are understandably upset about this challenge to their system. And they will not stop until they have marginalized and squashed the opposition.
Much has been written about the "business community's" pushback against some of these candidates like Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Tim Huleskamp, and Rep. Justin Amash. The driving force behind these challenges is similar - to get someone who will work with the system and 'get things done.'
How serious is this challenge?
That is the hardest part to evaluate. Without doubt, these three are troublemakers for the House leadership as they all voted against Speaker John Boehner in defiance with the usual protocol for majority party members. In fact, Amash has often been cited as one of the ringleaders of the coup and was stripped of some committee assignments because of his unwillingness to agree with many of the House GOP's plans to increase spending and raise the debt limit.
So his race is probably the best way to gauge the strength of the establishment of the GOP. He already struggles to raise any significant money from PACs precisely because of the way he votes and legislates (no point paying for influence if it doesn't buy you any). Therefore, he is relegated to raising his funds almost entirely from individuals. This is an extremely difficult thing to do for a member of Congress who is new (second term) and has no large personal fortune. And unfortunately for Amash, he has drawn a personally wealthy primary challenger who has the apparent support of some prominent businessmen from his district.
His opponent, local school board member and financial advisor, Brian Ellis has said he is willing to commit one to two million dollars to his campaign to unseat Amash. He has shown his willingness to spend already by putting up billboards and large buys on talk radio attacking Amash for months.
So the first and most important test for Amash is whether he will be able to raise money?
If he can raise money and raise it early enough it will send a resounding rebuke to the established wing of the party both locally, at the state level, and nationally. It would also show that it is possible to survive politically (even thrive?) by setting your own agenda and taking on the true beasts of government. His current crusade against the security state and the National Security Agency's blatant disregard of the Bill of Rights is going to be successful and certainly makes him enemy number one, two, and three for the established types.
In only a few days, the last quarter of 2013 fundraising will come to a close. Simply put, Amash needs to show that he can raise money and raise lots to put away his challenger. The campaign might take between $1-2 million to defend in the primary meaning Amash needs to already have raised a decent sum to show his contributors that he can successfully defend himself.
Simply put, Amash needs to raise at least $250-300 thousand for the last quarter. Anything over $400 thousand would lay an imposing foundation for his challenger to overcome. The grassroots in the district is certainly behind him and he will have a sizable advantage with name recognition.
It's hard to know how well he has done but we do know from his recent money bomb on December 16-17 that he raised a little over $100,000. According to his campaign coordinator, they received donations from over 1600 individuals from every state, DC, and Puerto Rico (not Guam or Palau?). That also means the average donation was less than $100 leaving him a large reservoir to tap aver the following eight months before the August primary.
The real question will be if the money bomb will be the bulk of his quarter or only a fraction. If it's a fraction of his total haul then Ellis' local business backers may be experiencing a serious case of buyers' remorse.