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Ron Radosh

Why Republicans Will Not Win the Senate

September 23rd, 2010 - 2:50 pm

This coming election should produce not only a Republican House, but a Republican Senate as well. Even in New York, as Jonathan Tobin points out, the gap between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and Republican challenger Carl Paladino is narrowing. And in the Senatorial race, Republican challenger Joseph DioGuardi is trailing Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand by only 10 points! Both Democrats are likely to win, but if a state such as New York is showing the potential of a Republican appeal,  then it would appear that all bets should be off.

Unfortunately, a Republican victory in the Senate may not occur for one reason — or should we say two: Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle! First, look at Angle. Harry Reid should be the easiest Democrat to beat. Reid is the personification of everything that has turned the electorate against the Democrats. As the Senate majority leader, he has presided over the very legislation that has produced the unpopularity of the Obama administration, beginning with health care.

But as the latest polls reveal, the race in Nevada between Reid and Angle is a virtual toss-up. Angle might still be able to win, but with each day, the odds in her favor are declining. Fox/Rasmussen gives her a slight +1, as does CNN/Time. Reuters/ISPOS and LVRJ/Mason-Dixon give Reid +2. Hence a wide-open race, at a time when a Republican running against Reid should have a smashing majority, and no doubt of replacing him.

As the team at Real Clear Politics reports:

Angle has proved to be a chronically gaffe-prone candidate, who is running as a proud Christian conservative in Sin City. Complicating matters for Angle, the state allows voters to select “none of these candidates,” which could split the anti-Reid vote. This could be a missed opportunity for Republicans.

In Delaware, the situation is even worse. The former self-proclaimed college Marxist, Chris Coons, is running some 15 to 16 points ahead of Christine O’Donnell, in what is regarded as a state that should have been a shoo-in for the Republicans, if they had a candidate who was a moderate of even a liberal Republican. Yes, many of O’Donnell’s most vapid and silly statements were made a long time ago. But she is a candidate of the TV age, who made a name for herself through the medium, and hence many videos exist that can be replayed over and over to remind voters of the quality of her resume.  As John Podhoretz writes, her early career made her a natural for the new talk shows, “because she was young, pretty, and a raging extremist of the right.” Now, those very attributes have become her undoing. Today, TNR.com provides a convenient list of her statements that will contribute to her coming electoral loss.

The problem, as Podhoretz correctly writes, is that in the present, O’Donnell has shown “very little seriousness of purpose.” Where I disagree with Podhoretz is when he writes that the problem is not the Tea Party or her ideas, but her path to the spotlight. The fact is, as the MSM continually point out, she was and is the Tea Party favorite. So many of this new movement’s activists seem to be saying: “We are against candidates of both parties who don’t speak for us, who are not fiscally responsible or really conservative, or in the case of some Republicans, are so-called RINOS.” Therefore they have got behind candidates like O’Donnell, despite solid evidence of her inability to be elected.

I usually do not agree with anything Peter Beinart writes, but this time, he hits the nail on the head. The Republicans, he argues, are emulating the tactics and approach that led to the giant Democratic defeat and the candidacy of George McGovern in 1972.  He explains this in the following way:

The process works something like this. When parties lose power, activists ascribe the loss to the ideological impurity of their incumbent president. In so doing, they vent the frustrations they kept bottled up while their side was in power. Since defeat frees them from the messy business of governing, ideological purity suddenly becomes easier. And since defeat usually hits party moderates disproportionately hard, the opponents of purity usually hold.

Read the details he provides of what beset the Democrats in that era. I covered this myself in my book on the Democratic Party’s demise, in which I offer many examples of how the Democrats were taken over by left-wing activists, thereby assuring their total collapse in that era.

Now consider today’s Republican Party. At a moment when it is poised to present meaningful conservative alternatives to the stale bromides of a bankrupt liberalism, far right activists who demand ideological purity and rigidity on all issues dominate the activist base, and seemingly are succeeding in producing a conservatism that is both not electable and far removed from appealing to the disappointments that are driving so many away from the Democratic Party. The current situation does not prove that Beinart is correct when he says that America is a “center-left” nation. It is clearly a center-right nation, but concentrate on the word “center.” We are not a far-right nation, and candidates of that caliber will eventually push those who could be allies in defeating the left smack into the hands of our opponents.

As usual, Charles Krauthammer put it so well: “The very people who have most alerted the country to the perils of President Obama’s social democratic agenda may have just made it impossible for Republicans to retake the Senate and definitively stop that agenda.” If Republicans are to win and govern, they need to build a centrist conservative party that is national in scope, not a Southern or regional party that will continually lose in the Northeast. So I ask PJM readers, is that what you really want?

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