After the State of the Union speech in January, Sen. Lisa Murkowski pressed past the phalanx of shouting reporters in Statuary Hall and snaked her way through the Capitol toward the Senate chamber and a smaller, quieter gaggle of reporters. It was nearly midnight on a long day that had also featured the year's first meeting of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose help Murkowski will need in her 2016 reelection bid; in 2010, the Alaska Republican lost the GOP nomination and had to mount a write-in campaign to keep her seat. But when I asked her what had happened at the NRSC meeting, the senator's mind went not to strategy and fundraising, but to food. "It was Chick-fil-A! We always have Chick-fil-A!" she complained. "I don't mind Chick-fil-A every now and again, but you know, here's my deal: I'm really trying to eat healthier. I don't know what they coat that Chick-fil-A stuff in."
Since 2012, when the Atlanta-based fried-chicken chain came under fire for donating millions to groups fighting same-sex marriage -- and CEO Dan Cathy declared that redefining marriage was "inviting God's judgment on our nation" -- Chick-fil-A has become congressional Republicans' fast food of choice, a culture-war statement on a bun. When former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee organized a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" that August, defying liberal boycotts, Capitol Hill conservatives enthusiastically joined in, filling conference rooms with chicken nuggets and tweeting photos of themselves at Chick-fil-A drive-ins.