The upcoming 2014 midterm elections should be a golden opportunity for Republicans to win back the Senate (while retaining the House) and thus creating a momentum on which to capitalize as they try to retake the White House in 2016. But not if the Tea Party and the Club for Growth have anything to say about it.
In theory, everything should go Republicans’ way. The incumbent president’s party usually loses seats – sometimes big time – in midterm elections, and in 7-8 winnable states Democratic incumbents are either retiring (Harkin in IA, Rockefeller in WV, possibly Johnson in SD), running in red states (AK, LA, AR), or underfunded (NH). There are also other potential, though less feasible, pickups (e.g. OR and MT). Also, the economy shows no sign of recovering, will almost certainly not recover as long as Obama is in office, and Obama has veered far to the left. By any standard, this should be an easy election for Republicans to win.
But it won’t be, because extremist Republicans and the fringe of the conservative movement, including the Club For Growth of the Democratic Caucus, have decided to fire their arrows at good, mainstream conservatives and moderate Republicans instead of the real enemy (the Democrats).
The party and the country will both pay a heavy price if these extremists succeed.
We’ve seen this happen several times already. In 2010, when most Americans were angry at Obama and the oversized Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Tea Party and the Club for Growth of the Democratic Caucus still managed to throw away several winnable Senate seats by supporting extremist against mainstream Republicans in states like Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado. They gave the GOP doomed-to-lose candidates: Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Ken Buck.
In 2012, winning back the Senate was going to be more difficult than in a midterm year, given that Obama was on the ballot and many Democrats rode his coattails. Still, Republicans had a chance, given that they were only 4 seats shy of a majority.
Yet, Republicans lost badly. On net, instead of winning seats, they actually lost two, growing the Democratic caucus to 55 members. This was primarily due to extremists like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both of whom were supported by the Tea Party and both of whom threw away otherwise perfectly winnable seats. Richard Lugar, who would’ve otherwise been a shoo-in for reelection, was defeated in a primary. In Missouri, Todd Akin snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by opening his mouth about abortion and rape and saved Claire McCaskill, who would’ve otherwise been easily defeated.
Their idiocy not only cost them their races, but also cost other Republicans theirs, because their Democratic opponents reminded the voters that however nice Scott Brown, Tommy Thompson, and George Allen were, they were members of the party of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
Those disasters should’ve been a wakeup call that Republicans must, from now on, nominate only electable – THE most electable – candidates and avoid bloody primary battles.
But it’s clear that Republicans, like the Bourbons of the Restoration Era, have forgotten nothing and learned nothing. And pseudoconservative publications like the American Spectator continue to fool Republicans into thinking that the reason Republicans lost was because they weren’t “conservative enough” and that “conservatism” and “communicating the message better” will suffice to win future elections. But that’s jut an easy, lame excuse for avoiding the unpleasant fact that the voters simply rejected you.
And so, fooled by the likes of Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Jeff Lord of AmSpec, and Richard Viguerie of ConservativeHQ, Republicans continue to delude themselves and to oppose the only candidates who stand a chance of winning future elections. And that puts their chance of winning back the Senate and retaining the House in grave peril.
In West Virginia, the Club for Growth of the Democratic Caucus opposes mainstream moderate conservative Shelley Capito, as if she were a Massachusetts liberal. In Georgia, extremists have just forced incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss – a solid across-the-board fiscal, defense, and social conservative – to retire under the threat of a primary challenge. And who’s the favorite for the GOP nomination? Rep. Paul Broun, a Todd Akin clone who believes that the evolution theory – proven scientifically over and over again – is a lie “from the pits of hell”.
In Iowa, likewise, extremists have given incumbent Rep. Steve King – who has never won anything beyond his solidly red district – the upper hand in the race against solid conservative (but not extremist) Tom Latham, who is being smeared with gossip that he’s “close to Speaker John Boehner” – a toxic name among Republicans. In Louisiana, former Rep. Jeff Landry may win the nomination, although thankfully in the Bayou State, the most electable candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, is also the favorite to win the nomination.
So in at least four states, extremists are already at work to deny the nomination to the most electable candidates, even though all of them are mainstream conservatives and haven’t done anything egregious to deserve a primary challenge. This is more than enough to deny the GOP a Senate majority for the third time in a row. In the worst case, the GOP could lose seats again.
On a positive note, popular former SD Gov. Mike Rounds has an at least 50% chance of winning in his state – whether Tim Johnson runs for reelection or not – and in Arkansas, Republicans have a deep bench, although it remains to be seen if the strongest GOP candidate, Rep. Tom Cotton, runs for the Senate here. If he does, he’ll likely win. And in Alaska, disastrous 2010 candidate Joe Miller can’t find enough supporters even in his own party, so the GOP should defeat Mark Begich (D-AK), especially if he fails to block the move of a fighter wing out of Eielson AFB.
Republicans also have a pickup opportunity in NH, because incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has raised only a pathetic $300,000 for reelection. A well-funded Republican challenger who doesn’t have to undergo a bloodying primary battle would be a strong candidate.
But Republicans can win the Senate back only if everything goes their way. That means no protracted, bloodying, divisive primary battles (they only help Democrats) and no more unelectable, fringe candidates.
No more Sharron Angles. No more Christine O’Donnells. No more Ken Bucks. No more Todd Akins. No more Richard Mourdocks. No more Paul Brouns. No more Steve Kings.
Republicans can win the Senate back in 2014 – but ONLY if they keep the Tea Party and the Club for Growth of the Democratic Caucus at bay.
Folks, let’s focus on the REAL enemy: the Democrats.