In an editoral published last week at The Kansas City Star, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, had strong words for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), when it comes to constested Senate primaries:
In the wake of some missed opportunities to pick up seats in the U.S. Senate over the last few cycles, one tactical change floated by the GOP establishment is that the party apparatus and its affiliated Super PACs should play a more influential role in primaries to make sure that more “electable” candidates are nominated.
It is hard to imagine a bigger mistake.
First, let’s review the Senate races where the Republicans nominated so-called “electable” establishment candidates in 2012: Denny Rehberg in Montana, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Heather Wilson in New Mexico, George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin. All were establishment favorites because they were all “electable.” All of them lost.
Second, let’s review the recent history of the Republican establishment’s choices of candidates in high-profile Republican primaries against fiscal conservatives.
The names that come to mind include Dede Scozzafava, Arlen Specter, and Charlie Crist. All were supported by the Republican Party establishment as the most “electable” in their respective races. These stellar “Republican” candidates ended up either endorsing the Democratic candidate in the race or became Democrats themselves.
Finally, let’s review the candidates that ended up winning races where the Republican establishment initially opposed them. Most instructive are the names Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. All of those candidates were deemed unelectable or outside the mainstream in the past, and yet now they are viewed as major parts of the future of the Republican Party.
It’s easy to point to grassroots and Tea Party groups for the failure of Richard Mourdock in Indiana. However, Chocola explains the Club for Growth backed the candidacies of strong fiscal conservatlvies like Sens. Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, and Sen.-elect Cruz, all of which have become vocal leaders of the Republican Party, “when almost no one else would.”
There is a clear solution. If the GOP wants to involve itself in primaries again it should focus on supporting candidates who clearly believe in and can articulate what the Republican Party says it stands for, limited government and economic freedom. Not candidates who simply adopt whatever positions make them the most “electable.”
One of the biggest silver linings of the 2012 election is the deep Republican bench. In addition to rising stars endorsed by the Club for Growth PAC like Senators Toomey, Rubio, Cruz, Mike Lee, Jeff Flake, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul, a whole new generation of governors who support economic freedom stand ready in the wings.
While Charlie Crist went on to back President Barack Obama this year and Arlen Specter provided critical votes for Obama’s stimulus and ObamaCare, the candidates elected over the objections of the Republican establishment are providing a clear vision for the future.
If you are a Republican who yearns for the days of Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist, then you might welcome a return to GOP insiders meddling in primaries.
But if you prefer the Republican Party of Toomey, Rubio, and Cruz, you should be very leery of the folks in Washington deciding which Republicans are the most “electable.”
We’re barely out of this year’s cycle and the battlelines for 2014 are already being drawn. Don’t expect the NRSC to back down in primaries. This is part of that “civil war” for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. It’s unavoidable at this point, and, for the most part, should be welcomed.