Primary Rival Calls Top NSA Critic in the House "Al Qaeda's Best Friend"

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 4:12 PM EDT

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is facing a serious primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis over the second-term congressman's frequent clashes with the Republican establishment. Amash lost his spot on the budget committee after voting against the Ryan budget, opposed John Boehner's bid for speaker, and led his party's far-right faction in forcing a government shutdown last fall. But it's Amash's opposition to the expansive national security and surveillance state that has drawn the fiercest backlash so far.

The latest example: this new ad from Ellis, featuring an ex-Marine calling Amash "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress":

 

The quote originally came from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose beef with Amash is longstanding. Ellis has received big bucks from his party's establishment donors, and Amash's Republican colleagues in the Michigan delegation have left him out to dry. But Amash, a charismatic disciple of former Rep. Ron Paul, has access to a rich grassroots fundraising network of his own, as well the generous support of the Club for Growth and the DeVos family, one of Michigan's most powerful political families.

Attack ads notwithstanding, Amash's efforts to build a bipartisan coalition to curtail the NSA appears to be working: Last week, the House voted—by a 170-vote margin—to rein warrantless "backdoor searches" of American citizens. And it doesn't appear to be hurting him in Southwest Michigan: A poll of the race from the Detroit News gave Amash a 55–35 lead.