The old saying goes, “third time’s the charm.”
But it seems at this point that Republicans will waste a great opportunity to retake the Senate for the third time in a row.
What are the mistakes the GOP is making? The same ones as always: allowing extremist, fringe groups like the Club for the Growth of the Democratic Caucus to bring down electable, mainstream Republican candidates who don’t meet these extremist group’s purist standards, and nominating utterly unelectable, fringe candidates who then go on to lose elections by record numbers.
For example, in Louisiana, fringe candidate Robert Maness is challenging conservative Congressman Bill Cassidy (LA-6) for the GOP nomination, even though Cassidy has excellent ratings from Citizens Against Government Waste, ATR, Heritage Action for America, the American Conservative Union, the NRA, Gun Owners of America, the Eagle Forum, the National Right to Life Committee, and numerous other conservative organizations. Cassidy was well on track to defeating Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu… but now he’ll have to spend half of the race, and possibly much money, on defeating a primary challenger (Robert Maness) who stands no chance of beating Landrieu, a well-funded 3-term incumbent who has repeatedly been reelected in one of America’s reddest states, even in 2002, a good year for Republicans.
Similarly, in Alaska, disastrous 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller has filed papers to run again. Polls show that incumbent Dem Senator Mark Begich would beat him by a record number – 28 percentage points – whereas Begich won his original election by a squeaker in 2008. There’s a real risk that Joe Miller will win the GOP primary (as he did in 2010), but even if mainstream conservative LTGOV Mead Treadwell beats him in the primary, he will need to spent lots of time and money doing it – money and time that would be better used to fight Begich. Sarah Palin, who is also utterly unelectable (polls show her losing to Mark Begich by 18 points), is also mulling a Senate run.
Likewise, in North Carolina, Virginia Foxx is now leading in the polls, even though Cherie Berry would’ve been the most electable potential candidate (she was even with incumbent Democrat Senator Kay Hagan at 45% each before she announced she won’t run). Polls show that Hagan would easily beat Foxx, 49% to 42%, were the latter to be the GOP nominee. Sadly, Cherie Berry has refused to run for the Senate. Republicans’ only hope now is that conservative Rep. Sue Myrick will enter the race and win the GOP nomination. Myrick is just 1 pp behind Hagan.
And in Michigan, leftist libertarian Congressman Justim Amash, who has been in office for a little more than 2 years, is now seriously mulling a Senate run, even though polls show him losing to likely Dem nominee Gary Peters by a wide margin. (Although part of me would like to see Amash nominated, so that he’d then get crushed in the general by Gary Peters and lose both the Senate race and his House seat. A Congress without Amash will be a better Congress.)
In Georgia, things are even worse. Not one, but TWO utterly unelectable, fringe candidates – Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey – are running to replace outgoing conservative Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Gingrey has a history of putting his foot in his mouth (e.g. he defended Todd Akin and said that women should be trained for “typical feminine roles” like tending to children and cooking rather than working), but Broun is even worse. His signature statement is “All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryonics, the Big Bang theory, all that stuff is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun and Gingrey are nothing but clones of Todd Akin. If, by some disastrous accident, one of them wins the nomination, they will make another Akin-like gaffe about pregnancy from rape and throw an otherwise easily winnable seat away.
In some other states, Republicans have failed to recruit top-tier candidates, or in some cases, any candidates at all.
In Iowa, all to-tier Republicans have declined to run: Kim Reynolds, Gov. Terry Branstad, and Rep. Tom Latham (a mainstream conservative who represents a centrist, R+1 district). Republicans’ only hope is that one of them will reconsider and jump in.
In New Hampshire, no Republican has jumped into the race, despite Jeanne Shaheen being an extremist, a poorly funded incumbent (with only $300,000 in the bank), and being deeply embroiled in the IRS scandal (Shaheen was one of the ten Dem Senators who urged the IRS in a letter to persecute conservative groups). Scott Brown is only grousing about joining the race, and even he would start the race 4 pp behind Shaheen.
In Arkansas, Republicans have so far failed to recruit any candidates. Conservative Congressman Tim Griffin has declined to run. It remains to be seen whether conservative Rep. Tom Cotton or LTGOV Mark Darr jumps in. Cotton would be a great challenger for incumbent Dem Senator Mark Pryor; he’s only 1 pp behind the incumbent Democrat and is beloved by the GOP base. Pryor is the only statewide Dem official in AR, an increasingly red state, and will now have to face voters for the first time since voting for Obamacare.
In Virginia, Republicans have likewise failed to recruit any credible challenger for Mark Warner.
In Colorado, similarly, Republicans have failed to recruit any credible candidate against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. The most credible potential candidate, former Governor Bill Owens, remains noncommittal so far.
In Oregon, likewise, Republicans haven’t found anyone to run against weak incumbent Jeff Merkley, and in Montana, two unelectable GOP candidates have declared, while former Governor Marc Racicot – the only candidate with any chance to beat likely Dem nominee Brian Schweitzer – has not declared yet. Even if he does run, though, Schweitzer will be difficult to beat.
Thus, it is likely Republicans will piss another completely winnable election, with an opportunity to win 10 seats on net and create an unbeatable 55-45 majority. Such a huge win is necessary – winning 6 seats on net will not suffice – because in 2016, the Democrats will have the upper hand: more Republicans than Democrats will be up for reelection, and most Republicans will be running in purple states like Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire, while most Dems up for reelection that year will be running in safely Democratic states like California, New York, etc.
The situation can still be turned around – Republicans can still win this election – but to do that, they must utterly reject all unelectable, extremist candidates, recruit and shepherd quality candidates, and do everything to win the forementioned 10 states’ seats. There isn’t much time to do so. The time to win the Senate is now.
To win the Senate, Republicans must nominate the following candidates:
AK: Mead Treadwell
AR: Tom Cotton
CO: Bill Owens
GA: Jack Kingston or Karen Handel
IA: Terry Branstad or Kim Reynolds (if either of them can be convinced to run)
LA: Bill Cassidy
MI: Terri Lynn Land
MT: Marc Racicot
NC: Sue Myrick
NH: Scott Brown
OR: Greg Walden (if he runs)