May 17, 2014
The “Republican civil war” has been a favorite media story line of the Obama years, but lately it’s become hard to sustain. Now John Dickerson, who covers politics for both CBS News and Slate.com, is asking: “Why Is the GOP’s Civil War So Civil?”
“At least on the Senate battlefield,” Dickerson writes, “the much-anticipated and contentious intraparty fights are not happening.” That’s in contrast with 2010, when Tea Party candidates in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada lost what were thought to be winnable races. The same is often said to have happened in 2012, but the case is considerably weaker. Several “electable” Republicans also lost that year, and the notorious Todd Akin was not a Tea Party guy.
So far in this year’s Senate primaries, there’s been more amity than acrimony between the establishment and the Tea Party. Dickerson focuses on two of them: in Nebraska and North Carolina. In the former–for an open seat considered safely Republican–Ben Sasse, the Tea Party favorite, won. In the latter, the establishment’s man, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, prevailed and will take on Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent. Professional handicappers call that contest a toss-up.
If Sasse–whose name rhymes with “grass,” as we learned the other day thanks to MSNBC–and Tillis are on opposite sides of the Republican divide, neither gives the other side much to object to. As Dickerson notes, Sasse is perfectly electable; he “has political skill, an Ivy League education, and credentials as a Bush administration veteran.” He’s not a witch. As for Tillis, he “was not so [ideologically] objectionable that he kept movement conservatives from falling in line quickly behind him.”
It’s the same story in other states with upcoming primaries.