Just read the headline, and you know where it’s headed, and you’ll also know that I’ll have a personal stake in responding.
Senate GOP Plans to Play Bigger Role in Party Primaries
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in the Senate, frustrated by losing seats they thought they could win, are preparing to play a more assertive role in primary races, in consultation with the tea party and other conservative activists.
The strategy reflects a change from the 2012 election, in which Senate GOP leaders took a relatively hands-off approach to party primaries. Now, Senate leadership is likely to back a favored candidate in certain cases, as it had done in 2010 and before, but to take the new step of bringing activists into the conversation about potential nominees early.
The tea party has been both a confounding force and source of energy for the GOP. It has lifted some of the GOP’s top stars into power, among them Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, but also has helped nominate candidates who were not strong enough to survive the general election. Strategists in both parties cite five Senate races in the past two election cycles that Democrats won at least in part because the GOP primary elevated a candidate who struggled in the general election.
The Senate GOP this week chose Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) to coordinate their 2014 campaigns, with an assist from Texas Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, who has close ties to the tea party.
The two conservative lawmakers, with help on fundraising from Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), are tasked with reaching out to tea party and other activists. They hope to avoid the nomination of candidates such as Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who GOP leaders believe cost them a Senate seat with controversial comments about rape.
“You have to fix the problem and get better candidates,” said a Senate GOP aide. “We need a clear discussion at the beginning on who are conservatives that can win and who are bad candidates.…You have to collaborate with conservatives on the front end.”
Mr. Moran said in an interview that ending up with better candidates would be a big part of his job. “This is a significant issue, and we’ll spend time as Republican senators talking about it,” he said. “My view is, if we decide to engage in a primary, before we do that we need to have consensus and input and conversation from people back in the state we’re talking about.”
Strategists in both parties believe the GOP lost races in part because primary voters picked weak candidates in several cases in 2010 and 2012. In addition to Mr. Akin, they included Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, who had once said she “dabbled in witchcraft,” and Sharron Angle in Nevada, who lost a 2010 race to Majority Leader Harry Reid. In Indiana this year, Richard Mourdock lost a Senate race after making his own controversial comments on rape.
After last week’s election, GOP leaders initially asked Mr. Rubio to head the National Republican Senatorial Committee, given his role as a high-profile Hispanic and his ties to conservatives. They also asked Mr. Portman, who has experience winning in a swing state. Both declined, but Mr. Portman will be a deputy to Mr. Moran.
Mr. Cruz, who was elected Nov. 6 and has yet to take office, is a favorite of conservative activists, and he defeated an establishment-backed rival, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in a Republican primary.
Democrats dismiss the notion that politicians from Texas and Kansas can help Republicans win in swing states.
“It’s music to my ears if they really believe that,” said Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “From what I know about the tea party, or the extreme of the Republican base, what makes them go crazy is the notion of the Washington establishment telling them who their nominee should be.”
Democrats noted that even when GOP leaders got the more mainstream candidates they wanted this year, such as former Gov. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, they often lost, anyway. The GOP’s deeper problem, Mr. Canter said, is that its positions on Medicare, immigration and other issues turn off many voters.
The Republicans’ recruitment challenge in many ways originated with the 2010 election, when GOP leaders endorsed then-Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a centrist, over Mr. Rubio for a Senate seat. That backfired badly, as conservatives were furious, Mr. Rubio won the race, and Mr. Crist left the party.
GOP leaders now say they over-learned that lesson, taking a hands-off approach ever since that has yielded candidates such as Mr. Akin. Republicans were confident of defeating Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) until Mr. Akin said women’s bodies could reject unwanted pregnancies in cases of “legitimate rape,” a comment that precipitated a plunge in the polls. Mr. Akin apologized for his comment, but never recovered from it.
In Missouri and other states, Democrats played a bigger role in choosing the Republican nominee than Senate GOP leaders did, by running ads in the GOP primary aimed at bolstering Mr. Akin, who they thought would be easier to defeat.
Republicans lost two Senate seats this year, giving Democrats a 55-45 majority. GOP leaders hope 2014 will be better, partly because the president’s party often loses seats in his second midterm, and partly because several Democrats face re-election from GOP-leaning states, including Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) and Tim Johnson (D., S.D.).
Democrats have asked Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado to head their 2014 campaign efforts, though he has not yet accepted. He is a more traditional choice than Mr. Moran, coming from a swing state where he won a hard-fought election in 2010.
1. Todd was really not the choice of most Tea Party type orgs and activists in the primary. Most of them were for Sarah Steelman.
2. While the last minute attack ad from Claire in late July and early August helped us win the primary, it was not the only reason.
3. I find it ironic that Cruz and Rubio are part of the Senate RINO establishment “block out the TPM” initative. For these same Senate RINOs would have had Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst instead of the two of them if they had their way.
4. Christine O’Donnell won two-thirds of the land area of Delaware in both the primary and the general election. It’s just that the northern one-third, with the city of Wilmington and various suburbs, full of blacks and increasingly Hispanics, would have lifted any Democrat to victory in the general election cycle. Chris Coons would have beaten Mike Castle, polling proves it.
5. There was no Republican that would have beat Harry Reid in 2010. That’s because Nevada has Las Vegas, and Las Vegas has two powerful interests that like having a friend in the Senate Majority Leader: Casino owners and casino employee unions. NRA vacillated with their on-again-off-again endorsement of Reid. BTW, how did John McCain and Mitt Romney do in the state of Nevada in November 2008 and November 2012?
6. For all the bitching about Todd and Richard Mourdock, there were a whole slew of lamestream conservative, moderate and liberal Republican Senatorial candidates that lost two weeks ago. Names? Okay: Scott Brown, Linda McMahon, Tom Smith, Josh Mandel, Connie Mack IV, Pete Hoekstra, Tommy Thompson, John Raese, George Allen, Rick Berg, Denny Rehberg. That Senate race in New Mexico would have been easily winnable if Gary Johnson, former Governor, would have run for Senate as a Republican instead of dicking around with his not even 1% of the vote as a Presidential candidate. In fact, the only flip in favor of Republicans was Deb Fischer in Nebraska being able to take Ben “Cornhusker Kickback” Nelson’s seat, beating old Democrat warhorse Bob Kerrey in the process. Remember, Fischer won a three-way primary where the tea party people and orgs in Nebraska were fairly evenly divided between the three of them.
7. For all the bitching about Todd and Mourdock, they both might have been doomed from the moment of the Fateful Sunday, in Todd’s case, or the start, in Mourdock’s case, because of the backstabbing of the very same RINOs that are whining in this article. RINO Chuck Hagel tried to stab Deb Fischer in the back in Nebraska by endorsing Kerrey, but luckily she walked a straight line and voters were having none of it.
8. Keep pulling this shit, RINOs, and the TPM could file for divorce some time in 2013.