Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 4, 2009

NRSC TO STEER CLEAR OF PRIMARIES.... The National Republican Senatorial Committee likes to intervene in primary fights, for fairly obvious reasons -- the party establishment routinely has a favored candidate that it thinks has the best shot of winning the election. Naturally, then, the NRSC steers support to the Republican it perceives as stronger.

The problem, of course, is that the Republican base doesn't want the NRSC to intervene -- the establishment may want an "electable" candidate, but activists want their candidate. And after the unpleasantness in New York's 23rd, the base is making the demands more explicit -- don't intervene ... or else.

Today, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the base what it wanted to hear.

With Republicans grappling with the fallout of an intra-party battle that may have cost them a House seat, the head of the Senate Republican campaign effort is making a pledge that may ease some of the anger being directed at the party establishment.

"We will not spend money in a contested primary," Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC News in a telephone interview today.

"There's no incentive for us to weigh in," said Cornyn, R-Texas. "We have to look at our resources. . . . We're not going to throw money into a [primary] race leading up to the election."

Cornyn said his pledge extends to races for open Senate seats -- not incumbents who may face primaries next year. The NRSC so far has endorsed candidates in four open Senate seats -- Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

This is a pretty important development for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that the party establishment seems to be afraid of its own base. Today's announcement seems to be a message to the inmates: "Don't worry, you'll now have more control over the asylum."

Second, the NRSC's neutrality in primaries may have real practical implications. In Florida, for example, party leaders see Gov. Charlie Crist (R) as a shoo-in on Election Day, but right-wing activists prefer state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R). In California, the party has high hopes for Carly Fiorina's (R) Senate campaign, but the base prefers far-right state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R).

That Cornyn is just voluntarily giving up some of his power -- a year before the election -- because he's afraid of the Tea Party/Fox News/Palin crowd, is pretty remarkable.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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This is a fund-raising decision as much as it is a political one. The GOP doesn't want any more "not one more cent" boycotts from the lunatics at RedState, especially since they're probably the easiest to squeeze for an extra dollar.

Notice also that when Rush has cracked the whip on the GOP, he says things like "I wonder why anyone would give any money to them." The abject apologies and kowtows follow shortly thereafter.

Posted by: Rathskeller on November 4, 2009 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

now, my friends, we're gonna get clown car Repuganat candidates we can believe in!

Posted by: neill on November 4, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, goodie! I'm buying stock in popcorn!

Posted by: Michigoose on November 4, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

What fun.

Posted by: stevio on November 4, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

This is probably a good thing. I know I've not voted in races because I felt the national Democratic party weighed too heavily in deciding who won.

too often, national parties weigh in even when ANYONE could win. Most often, with Democrats, they weigh in to try and help blue-dogs over progressives even if it isn't necessary. I'd wager Republicans probably weigh in when it's innapropriate as well.

Posted by: soullite on November 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

And the collapse of Republican party continues its march towards Peak Wingnut.

Posted by: a different phil on November 4, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

So we will get to run against crazies instead of moderate, electable republicans? Nice!!!!!!!

Posted by: Patrick on November 4, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Good bye republicans. Hello 65 seat majority.

Posted by: Patrick on November 4, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

All the above are true, unless he was lying.

Were his lips moving?

Posted by: catclub on November 4, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republican Party adopts a hands-off policy on primaries, you can be sure the wingnuts and special interests won't join them. A sure sign of a political party in trouble is when it is no longer willing and/or able to shape its own destiny.

Posted by: David W. on November 4, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it, when I think of the "Republican Base", I picture a dirty, foul smelling, heavily armed and blue-painted horde charging toward the Establishment and screaming FREEDOM!!!!

Posted by: DAY on November 4, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Good bye republicans. Hello 65 seat majority.

We need to avoid thinking this way. The wingnuts are taking complete control of the GOP. Once that happens and the Dems continue to backpedal on commitments and fail to stand for anything, the will be the only alternative-crazy as they may be-to the do-nothing failures of the Democratic majority.

Then they win.*

See Conservative Party of Canada for more information.

Posted by: howie on November 4, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

So the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

What happens if it doesn't work? What happens if the ballots are stocked with outlandish Republican candidates that have no chance in a general election? Does the Party try to take back control? Could they if they wanted to?

I still think we will see the rise of a third party made up of moderate Republicans and probably blue dog Democrats looking for a bigger piece of the action. That's actually a frightening thought, because the vote would splinter and the possibility of some really dangerous kooks getting elected is far greater.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 4, 2009 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Uncivil War. Baby. Uncivil.

Get your Red State accounts peeps...
Time to help drive the knife fight forward.

Posted by: koreyel on November 4, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Carly Fiorina! Ba ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

In a conservative pig's eye!

Posted by: Trollop on November 4, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd like to see our Democratic counterparts make the same decision -- hold off until the primary is over before weighing in. I'm frustrated with DSCC and the DCCC helping conserva-Dems and Blue Dogs at the expense of progressives.

Posted by: Chris on November 4, 2009 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

DAY, I don't know. Why were you apparently rooting for the wrong side when you watched Braveheart?

Patrick, except unemployment will be at 10% come november of next year. At least. Do you really want to bet that the American people are going to vote for the incumbent party with 10% unemployment? In all liklihood, it won't matter how crazy Republicans are if the economy doesn't pick up.

Posted by: soullite on November 4, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

What's insane about this is that it's if a bunch of left-wing, activist Democrats took an established, but pro-life, pro-gun Dem candidate running in a rural Tennessee district, rode him out of town on a rail and put up instead some guy born in the area, but who had spent most of his career running a successful chain of gay bathhouses in San Francisco and advocating one world government. Then when the guy looses to a Republican, claim victory. I think a lot of right wingers look at Dem activists like Kos and think that the "netroots" strategy he has advocated since 2006 has been about forcing liberal/progressive purity on Democratic candidates. And that gets it all wrong. If you look at successful netroots-supported candidates like Jim Webb or John Tester (or even Obama), the secret was not that they were extra liberal -- they're not. The secret is that they understood party building, GOTV operations, and policy issues in a way that attracted independent voters and would ultimately benefit liberal ends even if they themselves were not the most liberal candidates. Having a DNC chair like Howard Dean who got this also helped. By comparison, the GOP is still disconnected from reality and apparently under the delusion that the way back to power is simply to be more wingnutty while not offering any coherent policy solutions to the nation's problems.

Posted by: jonas on November 4, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

The thing to remember is this: The base of the Republican party isn't going to stop at terrifying its leaders into complacency.

This is not to say we should be afraid of them. Far from it. These are daunting times but the fight must be fought. Just making sure all understand the way things will "progress." Cornyn is now cowed to not contest primaries. Then, the wingnuts will do what the very thing they accuse groups like ACORN of doing. They will stalk elections on local levels. If their candidates aren't doing well, they're going to twist the arms of the people who will improve their chances. They'll extort endorsements, they'll threaten local media to accept more of their buys for less money, they will run elections like a mafia godfather who is no longer concerned about hiding in the shadows. Because this is their big power grab. They're one effective speech away from starting some serious rioting, and no one is telling them to behave themselves. Everyone's too chicken sh*t to put this genie back in the bottle, so it's only going to get stronger. Not better, not more coherent. They won't pick better leaders, they'll just intimidate the electorate into voting their way.

And THEN they'll win.

Unless we stop them.

Posted by: slappy magoo on November 4, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK


The GOP just gave up on having any sort of power for 2-3 election cycles. Until the Conservative base has figured out that in politics "principles" without "power" are meaningless, Dems will just keep winning.

Posted by: cboss on November 4, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be careful attributing to much capacity for thought to the general voting public. Someone as odious as Bob McDonnell can convince women to vote for him because there is a strong anti-incumbent current, and that current doesn't always care who gets swept into office in the incumbent's stead.

If the Democrats think complacency will win the day in 2010, they're going to be unpleasantly surprised.

Posted by: doubtful on November 4, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

The National Republican Senatorial Committee likes to intervene in primary fights [...] -- Steve Benen

Repubs aren't alone on that, as Chris (@16:33) mentioned. Jim Webb wasn't the party choice. Spectral Boy Wonder is getting "all leadership hands to the tiller" treatment. We all remember the Lieberprick fiasco. And I seem to remember someone named Hackett being first recruited and then ditched by the "wise heads". Not all of these had been in open seat situations but...

Posted by: exlibra on November 4, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

McDonnell in Virginia is the exception that proves the rule I talked about above. Sure, he was a major wingnut, but he was also smart enough not to run a campaign that looked like it was only a wingnut insurgency. He talked about jobs and families and education all the feel-goody stuff. He looked to a lot of moderate conservative voters like he could be a religious conservative without being an angry partisan. McDonnell also had the tremendous good fortune to be up against the craptacular Creigh Deeds who thought liberal voters would be extra motivated to turn out if he moved to the right on all the issues. Lotta thinkin' Vern.

Posted by: jonas on November 4, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, that's the real news of this election - not the loss of the Governorships.

Posted by: N e i l B ♠ on November 4, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm looking forward-- sort of-- to what happens here in Fla. Crist has been a pretty popular guy until recently-- he actually made some moves to try and rein in property taxes (see Packer's? "The Ponzi State" in the New Yorker), and the stranglehold of the insurance companies on every homeowner down here-- believe me, they've made their money back from Andrew. Crist had the bad luck to be elected when Jeb's house of cards finally collapsed, and his support has deflated now that the bill's fallen due. Rubio is your basic SoFla Cuban Repub-- Government's evil, taxes are evil, regulation chokes off innovation-- basically, he's crack for teabaggers. You may have heard his spiel on the story NPR did the other day; if so, you know the song and dance.
At least as of last week, the polls were still saying it's Crist in a walk over Kendrick Meek, the Democrat. Meek is barely campaigning-- he's got some high negatives, at least for trying to win in the Panhandle: He's a Dem, he's smart, well-spoken, has a great grasp of the issues and the ability to communicate that to his constituents, and he's got a great smile. Yes, I know those are actually positives, but this is Florida. And the biggest weight he has to carry is that not only is he smart (which N. and Central Fl. might be willing to overlook), but he's also black.
However, even though Charlie stomps Kendrick in a matchup, the polls are still saying that Kendrick can ace out Marco! Crist has gone a long way by his "nice guy, not a partisan" image, but the wingnuts will probably prevail, and then the going gets tough. If Kendrick can get the money, he might pull this off, provided the teabaggers give him the "support" he needs.
Otherwise, no change. He'd be replacing Mel Martinez, after all.

Posted by: Stan on November 4, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Personally I think the leadership of BOTH parties should take a hands off approach to state primaries. The purpose of primaries (in theory) is for the members of the state party to choose who represents them. Having the guys in Washington cherry pick canidates, coordinate endorsements and more importantly funnel donations to a single canidate undermines that purpose.

Posted by: thorin-1 on November 4, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

thorin-1, that would be great, especially if outside special interests stayed outside of those races. But it hasn't been that way for years, there's no way to legislate it or mandate it, and the Republicans are only doing it for the time being because they haven't figured out how to proceed with regard to the extremists with or without whom they apparently cannot win.

Posted by: kth on November 4, 2009 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

The wingnuts are very much a minority, but they are determined. There is no limit to the damage a small group of very determined, and crazy, people, can do. Yes, the Rethugs may well eat their own, but ultimately they will purge out all remnants of moderation and intelligence, and become an utterly 'take no prisoners' crowd. They are purely and simply fascists. They won't stop until they have won, or started a civil war. The time to put an end to it is now. Not when the Capital building is burning.

Posted by: rRk1 on November 4, 2009 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I was actually listening to Rush Limbaugh briefly today, and his view, which I assume is representative of the Right , is that the Republican Party is doomed if it moves toward the political center. This is exactly the opposite of the claims on the Left that the GOP is doomed if it slides further to the Right. Its actually quite funny the extent to which the two parties are mirror images of each other. It almost makes you think there is an "Intelligent Design" behind the scenes of the debate making it as contentious as possible on every point. But maybe I'm just being paranoid.

My view is this. If the economy improves, Republicans will be marginalized in proportion to how far they stray toward the "wingnuts." However, in the event of another downturn or a terrorist attack, I seriously think we may all in deep s**t.

Posted by: Jason on November 4, 2009 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

We listen to a group of stupid loudmouths claiming they are "the real Americans" and a few thousand show up for a scream fest while we ignore that in spite of all the publicity they get from Fox and others...they are a small minority. The millions...millions of those not showing up for the scream fest and who are not part of the stupid loud mouth instigators of fear and hate are the majority who oppose all this crap. They have delivered a mandate in a time of almost complete economic meltdown which can succeed if delivered to bring progress back to our nation.

Dems need to just do what they promised and what we elected them to do and they will win elections for decades.

Posted by: bjobotts on November 4, 2009 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Charley Crist in Florida is probably the best national figure the Republicans have, and they are going to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Sounds good to me. The last thing we want to see is a GOP candidate who might be able to win the WH some day.

Hopefully Crist gets bummed out on politics after they oust him in the primary, and then never runs for office again.

The more Sarah Palins they run for office, the worse their chances. Fine with me.

Stupid is as stupid does. Or whatever it was Forrest said. I am too dumb to remember. I hated the movie and its glamorization of stupidness. I thought it set a terribly low threshold, almost saying, "Dumb people need someone to represent them, too." Kind of like Chance in "Being There."

And they did it to an entire political party. My very first sight of George W Bush, I cringed, and thought of Gump and Chance, and cringed a second time, for my country.

I just wish they would go back to being a reasonably responsible party. I know, with RushL running things, what are the chances of THAT happening?

If they want to throw out the non Gumpers, again, that sounds good to me.


Posted by: SteveGinIL on November 5, 2009 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

To thorin-1 and kth's points, the "base" is not authentic. The base is merely the raw material of a stampede and stampedes are never authentic.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on November 5, 2009 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK
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