No More Todd Akins–Means No More Ken Bucks

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.  

10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    is that  an organized D team that wants to maximize the chance to win, should somehow support the farthest right candidates in the pre-primary and primary, then come back in the general.

    What if instead the left moved even further left? You know – Bernie Sanders for everyone!  Green Party, Socialists, and so on

  2. caroman says:

    An article by Nate Cohn at The New Republic says the GOP better figure out how to win CO or it won’t win elsewhere.

    “…if the GOP can’t win back the Centennial State over the next four years, they’re not likely to win back the White House.”

  3. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    in 2014 so I can vote that nice Dan Maes in the primary again.

    I love messing with the primaries.

  4. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

    If Cruz acts as head negotiator, and also appears loyal to the GOP top brass without appearing to be a sell-out to the TP crazies, they might have a chance of avoiding the worst of the worst candidates of the last two cycles.

    Tough assignment, but not to be underestimated.

  5. Meiner49erMeiner49er says:

    Like GOPers everywhere, Larimer County Republicans have some soul searching to do regarding the fact that they couldn’t even deliver the county for their “Crusader” against the likes of Jared Polis.

    Lundberg’s fate will be an interesting case study to watch. Will the GOP rally around him as the leader of their northern flank, or will a more moderate faction emerge to challenge his Berthoud bastion.  

    Nikkel’s vote on civil unions last session suggests there’s a different voice plotting in the wings…

  6. BlueCat says:

    You don’t reverse, in one cycle, the direction you’ve been moving in for decades. This goes all the way back to the moral majority days when Rs decided to get religious conservatives, who often didn’t concern themselves with politics, to the polls by using social/religious issues.

    First they used wedge issues and the idea that minorities were getting a free ride to get the white religious right to the polls and always with the insistence that these were the policies of the party of God. This is the base they built and the base controls so many of the primary races.

    Over time almost everything, including all tax and economic issues, became subject to pledges of no compromise. The party of God can’t very well compromise on anything with the party of the godless and immoral, as the establishment was happy to encourage the base to believe the Democratic party was. They can’t suddenly say never mind all that. We have to be more moderate now.

    How do they even try to get a moderated message out? They have encouraged the base to believe that everything but what they hear on Fox and conservative talk radio is a lie and those news and opinion sources will keep right on handing the now extremely far right base audience the same old stuff that sells so well to them. So the only platform available for getting out a moderated message is the “lame stream media”. The base won’t be listening.

  7. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    This is what I’ve never understood. It’s like the GOP constantly needs salvation from WHAT IT IS. But you can’t save someone from themselves, can you?

    Can’t shine a turd. As simple as that.

  8. harrydobyharrydoby says:

    Can the GOP file off the rough edges and suppress its natural tendencies for absolutism?

    You saw how in the last couple of weeks before the vote, Romney’s lunge to the middle convinced a small but significant number of middle-of-the-roaders that maybe he was a moderate afterall.

    So obviously there is a market willing to buy center-right positions, even from a blatant “I cannot tell the truth” hypocrite like Romney.

    The only question is, can the GOP maintain the pretense of moderation for 2 to 4 years?

    My prediction is that the new Karl Rove will be, ta da! the old Karl Rove.  Disgrace and Rehabilitation in the GOP seems to be pretty normal.  Cynics that they are, the GOP will keep the act up long enough with a fresh new face like Rubio or Cruz for 2016.

    Will enough voters buy it? Maybe.  Can they tame the Tea Party in time by euthanizing the worst of the fringe groups?  TBD.  

  9. JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

    The author didn’t even mention the likes of Buck or even worse, Maes.  When your Govenor candidate gets 10% of the vote you should have some serious inward soul searching going on.

    We have a crazy here in Golden that has sued the city 10+ times and cost the city over a million in frivolous legal battles.  I consider here the great bellweather of crazy and always watch her lawn.  In the past couple of years it has promoted Coors, Ledendeker, Romney, No on 3A/B, Maes and every losing city candidate in the last six years.

    It gives me great comfort leading up to election day knowing I have never seen her pick a winner to back.

  10. BlueCat says:

    couldn’t have gotten through the GOP primary.  And it’s way beyond a matter of filing off rough edges. As long as they believe that all they have to do is sound a little less insulting to Latinos and women (they clearly can’t even bring themselves to make a credible effort with African Americans. Can’t resist the transparent coded messages to the bigot base) without actually changing the policies the extreme wing demands they can’t win in a presidential election year when turn out is always at its highest. Period. The best they can do is hang on to the House majority for a while but no more Senate majorities and no more White House.  

    Of course they can’t win without their base either so, for now, they really are between a rock and a hard place.  Meanwhile more young people, another demo they do badly with and which includes more young single women, African Americans and more Latinos, turn voting age while more grumpy old bigots die every single day.  

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