Justin Amash Might Be Staying in Washington for a While

| Thu Feb. 13, 2014 10:12 AM EST

Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash, a Ron Paul acolyte and leading NSA critic whom I profiled for the magazine last fall, was supposed to be on the ropes. Amash was one of a handful of tea party congressmen to earn primary challenges from members of the party who believed they had gone too far in their obstructionism with little to show for it. In November, a group of former Amash donors publicly backed his challenger, Brian Ellis, arguing that the congressman "and others have effectively nullified the Republican majority in the U.S. House" by driving a wedge through the party.

But things are looking up for Amash, and by extension the political movement he refers to as "the Rebel Alliance." A new poll released this week from Basswood Research showed Amash with a 60–12 lead over Ellis. Most voters still hadn't heard of Ellis, but those who had overwhelmingly didn't like him. That might be a product of the $200,000 that the conservative Club for Growth, whose ads helped Amash win the seat in the first place, has already poured into television spots hammering Ellis.

Now, per the New York Times, Amash is about to get some more help: Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-backed political operation, is launching a $230,000 ad buy to bolster the incumbent's credentials as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act. It's still early—the primary isn't until August. But Amash and his allies have thus far sent a firm message to his Republican critics: their money might better be spent elsewhere.

For more on the tea party's success in Michigan, check out my colleague Andy Kroll's report on the DeVos family of Grand Rapids—"the new Kochs"—who are not coincidentally one of Amash's biggest benefactors.