The Establishment Is Taking Aim At Sen. Mike Lee
October 23, 2013 - 10:35 am
Hot Air’s Allahpundit and Erika Johnsen have both documented a growing movement to boot Tea Party members of Congress over the next two election cycles. It seems that the business community is behind this conspiracy; horrified over the fact that a rather significant proportion of Republicans in Washington were willing to roll the dice on default. In the aftermath of the government shutdown, which was highly enjoyable, the Republican establishment is striking back – and one of their targets in the Senate is Mike Lee.
[In Utah,] prominent Republicans and local business executives are openly discussing the possibility of mounting a primary challenge against him. Top Republicans are also maneuvering to redesign the party’s nomination system in a way that would likely make it more difficult for Lee to win reelection in 2016…
Spencer Zwick, a Utah native and national finance chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, was more direct, calling Lee a “show horse” who “just wants to be a spectacle.”
“Business leaders that I talk to, many of whom supported him, would never support his reelection and in fact will work against him, myself included,” Zwick said…
“You don’t have ideological wack-jobs,” [former Utah Gov. Jon] Huntsman said. “For all of its labeling as a red state, underneath it all Utah is a pretty pragmatic Western state, a just-get-it-done ethos.
In fact, Allahpundit noted that the business community is what’s keeping John McCain in the “maybe” column concerning his decision to run for re-election in 2016. Neil King, Jr. at the Wall Street Journal added:
Even before the shutdown brought Mr. Lee to national prominence, some Utah party and business leaders had begun a $1 million petition drive to overturn the state’s caucus system that brought him to power. That system, which gives grass roots delegates a large say in picking party nominees, toppled incumbent GOP Sen. Robert Bennett —a more conventional conservative—in 2010 amid a wave of anger over passage of the health-care law. Mr. Lee went on to win the seat that November…
Republican circles are now rife with talk of who might challenge Mr. Lee in 2016. So far, no one is firmly raising a hand. But the Count My Vote initiative to do away with the state’s caucus system, backed by many of the state’s largest GOP donors and business names, represents perhaps the best-organized effort in the country to counteract the tea-party wave in the 2010 elections.
Mr. Lee could face a tougher route to re-election in 2016 if GOP caucuses are replaced with a direct primary. That would allow a more centrist candidate to make an appeal to all Republican voters, not just the activists who dominate caucuses, political observers say.
There are a lot of potential challengers to Lee, including the former chair of Utah’s Republican Party, former Governor Jon Huntsman, and former FreedomWorks-backed Dan Liljenquist; he’s the state senator who tried to oust Orrin Hatch in 2012. That’s just ironic.
Although, Allahpundit leaves us with this question.
Will national establishment Republican groups get involved or will a primary against one of the heroes of “defund” be too hot for them to risk in 2016? They’ll be sorely tempted to jump in — not because they have any special animosity for Lee, who’s way more low-key in his criticisms of them than a loud-and-proud flamboyant populist like Ted Cruz is, but because at a minimum they might be able to suck tea-party money into Utah to protect that seat and away from primary challenges to GOP incumbents in other states. If they can force TPers to fight there, they’ll take that — putting the grassroots on the defensive means they’re less of a threat to go on offense elsewhere. If they can’t force TPers to fight there, they’ll take that too — that’ll leave Lee in real jeopardy of being primaried, which, like I said above, would be a big symbolic victory for RINOs everywhere. Then again, at the rate we’re going, the GOP and the tea party will be two fully separate entities by 2016, so maybe this is all academic.
After all, Lee’s re-election isn’t for another three years. At that time, the government shutdown will be a distant memory. Additionally, are establishment Republicans willing to spend monies against Tea Party candidates in a year where conservatives could be facing the Clinton Clinton machine?
There is no doubt that without the GOP would be a diminished presences in the Senate and a sad minority in the House. As a result, what’s to be gained by trying to find ways to annihilate the grassroots swell that is keeping the Republican Party alive? Furthermore, the Tea Party may have won since the Obama administration isn’t taking delaying the individual mandate off the table due to the fiasco related to the website.