Politico reports on discussion underway among national Republican strategists to prevent, if you will, a three-peat of that party’s self-inflicted losses in key U.S. Senate races. Of course, publicly opposing the “Tea Party” like this will most likely just anger them further:
Read their lips: no more Todd Akins.
In the wake of the GOP’s Election Day beatdown, influential Republican senators say enough’s enough: Party leaders need to put the kibosh on the kind of savage primaries that yielded candidates like Akin – and crippled Republican prospects of taking the Senate in two straight election cycles…
All easier said than done, of course. Tea party types have relished showing the chosen candidates of the Washington establishment a thing or two – and it’s hard to see them laying down arms overnight. But after a sure-bet election in 2012 turned into an electoral disaster, Republicans say resolving their primary problem is, well, their primary problem.
Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.
“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.”
Unfortunately for Republicans now looking at 2014 as their next shot at redemption, Sen. Jerry Moran’s prescription above is a hopelessly conflicted message once again. One of the biggest problems, perhaps the biggest problem for the GOP has been this: the “input of people back in the states” has selected, for two consecutive election cycles, the least electable candidates.
Here in Colorado in 2010, the substantially more electable former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton lost the U.S. Senate primary to the candidate backed by local “Tea Party” interests, Weld County DA Ken Buck. In fact, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was in the process of putting their thumb on the scale for Norton, to the extent that Buck was reported to be dropping out of the race, before a local revolt against the NRSC forced them to back off.
Do you see how that’s a rather different scene than the one Sen. Moran is describing?
Bottom line: the problem is not that national Republican strategists in Washington D.C. have been making horrible recruitment choices and forcing them on local Republican voters. The problem is that the Republican base is rejecting the choices made by national Republicans, and substituting their own unelectable candidates. Therefore Moran’s talk about getting “engaged in primaries” based on “input of people back in the states” is actually about squelching local input, and candidates that run counter to the choices “people back in the states” have been making.
The hope being that GOP primary voters will realize their candidates need appeal beyond the far right base. That is one of the most important lessons of 2012, as it was in 2010–and in neither case is it apparent that lesson has been learned. Here in Colorado, it’s totally unknown whether changes among local Republicans will take place that would be needed for them to prevent 2014 from becoming a repeat of 2010′s loss in this state. And if national Republicans were to muscle in a moderate candidate for 2014, will the base tolerate it any more than they did then?
At this point, how can the national Republican party impose a slate on their base that the base doesn’t want? It’s odd to think in these terms with regard to an allegedly democratic process, but that honestly is the state the Republican Party finds itself in today–at the mercy of a base that has veered very far from the mainstream. The real irony is, Republicans deliberately radicalized their voters for the express purpose of winning elections. 2010 was the high water mark.
Now that they have failed, it’s a very long road back.