Establishment GOP Prepares To Cull Conservatives From The Herd
Why are conservatives so scary for the GOP establishment? Did the Witch from Delaware irreparably scare them? Granted, that 2010 race in Delaware was a travesty, but so was the 2012 Virginia Senate Race between former Sen. George Allen and former Gov. Tim Kaine. Congressman Denny Rehberg, someone thought to be electable, lost to incumbent Democrat Jon Tester in Montana – although libertarian Dan Cox may have siphoned away some votes. Regardless, the Establishment had some pretty bad picks. Does anyone remember Charlie Crist? However, Establishment Republicans seem to have had it with conservatives spoiling the primary harvest, and so they've created a new group to remedy that problem.
Today, Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad posted that:
[A] Republican group was forming to recruit better Senate candidates and counter conservative organizations’ attempts to sway primaries was met with immediate antagonism by at least one conservative group.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, issued a statement calling the project “another example of the Republican establishment’s hostility toward its conservative base” and even criticizing the new group’s name, Conservative Victory Project.
The statement came in reaction to a New York Times story that detailed the initiative being formed by American Crossroads, a GOP-aligned super PAC built to help Republicans get elected to office. Republican strategists are concerned about a replay of the past two election cycles, when at least five Senate seats were jeopardized specifically because of the quality of the Republican candidate nominated.
“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” American Crossroads President Steven Law told the newspaper.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee faced backlash from conservative activists in 2009 for quickly endorsing the candidacy of then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, when now-Sen. Marco Rubio, whom conservatives preferred, was already in the race. The NRSC took a much more hands-off approach in the 2012 cycle, but that resulted in nominees such as former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, whose controversial comments about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy resulted in a top-tier pickup opportunity being wiped off the map.
However, Todd Akin really wasn't a Tea Party insurgent. He is a staunch conservative, but also a six-term congressman, which makes him an insider. A characteristic that isn't taken in high regard within Tea Party circles. Richard Mourdock also made an unfortunate comment about rape and pregnancy that cost him the race in the Indiana. He lost to pro-life Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly.
However, while the Establishment slams conservatives, did they willfully ignore the wins in Texas and Nebraska? Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was barely polling 5%, a statistic he admitted to during the 2012 National Lawyers Conference, and ended decisively beating his Republican opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the primary. He was vastly outspent, but engaged the new media, bloggers, and activists that carried him over the top. In fact, he credited bloggers for his primary win. It was people power that beat Dewhurst, and that will always trump money IF the candidate is right. Newt Gingrich tried to play that card during the 2012 primaries, and it failed miserably.
Deb Fischer (R-NE) was elected as Nebraska's first female senator, and largely considered the underdog during the primary where she beat Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. When Sarah Palin endorses you, it's seen as a confirmation of one's conservative credentials. So, where's the fire? Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Tim Scott, Mike Lee – are these disasters in waiting? I think not.
Yes, Mourdock's rape comments are his own fault. There's not a single campaign strategist, or operative, that would say – during debate prep – that what he said was appropriate, and would attract swing voters. Todd Akin's remarks could've been easily pivoted towards the economy. He's a Republican, he has a record in Congress, and people know he's pro-life. This is one are where he could've used his congressional years to his advantage, but he didn't, and was trounced in the general election. These were dumb remarks, but that doesn't mean we need to shut out conservatives. It's not like they're Scylla and Charybdis. Conservatives aren't obstacles in the fight for less government, a fairer tax system, or reforms to entitlement spending. It's squishy Establishment Republicans.
Tea Party conservatives are the reason Republicans made their biggest congressional gains since 1938 during the 2010 midterms. They were the ones who took away Obama's credit card, albeit only for a short period of time. Nevertheless, the Establishment is going to be more interventionist against those who they feel violate the Buckley Rule, which will probably be used under false pretenses to cleave a conservative from the herd.
In the New York Times piece cited by Trygstad, it seems the Conservative Victory Project's first target may be Iowan Congressman Steve King.
Representative Steve King, a six-term Iowa Republican, could be among the earliest targets of the Conservative Victory Project. He said he had not decided whether he would run for the Senate, but the leaders of the project in Washington are not waiting to try to steer him away from the race.
The group’s plans, which were outlined for the first time last week in an interview with Mr. Law, call for hard-edge campaign tactics, including television advertising, against candidates whom party leaders see as unelectable and a drag on the efforts to win the Senate. Mr. Law cited Iowa as an example and said Republicans could no longer be squeamish about intervening in primary fights.
“We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Mr. Law said. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”
Mr. King has compiled a record of incendiary statements during his time in Congress, including comparing illegal immigrants to dogs and likening Capitol Hill maintenance workers to “Stasi troops” after they were ordered to install environmentally friendly light bulbs. But he rejected the suggestion that his voting record or previous remarks would keep him from winning if he decided to run for the Senate.
Let the infighting/self-cannibalization begin. This will seriously complicate things for 2014 – conservative advantage or not.