Political Animal


November 19, 2012 11:58 AM “But Seriously—” Said the Clown

By Ed Kilgore

In a numbingly predictable development, a variety of Beltway Republicans are vowing to make sure the Big Boys are in charge next time the GOP has a shot at controlling the Senate, even if that means intervening in primaries and dissing Tea Party faves. The point of this talk appears to be to blame the loss of the Senate on Todd Akin, who might well have been disposed of in the Missouri primary given his close victory over two other and presumably less rape-oriented candidates, John Brunner and Sarah Steelman. In Manu Raju’s Politico piece on the Big Boy scuttlebutt, there’s some acute pushback from those noting accurately that Akin and Richard Mourdock (who had massive, virtually unanimous conservative support in his successful primary challenge to Dick Lugar) weren’t the only problems Republicans had in 2012 Senate races:

“Look at the ‘electable’ candidates in Montana, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Virginia and North Dakota this cycle,” said Barney Keller, a spokesman for Club for Growth. “All were not chosen by pro-growth conservatives. All were chosen by the party establishment because they were considered more ‘electable.’ All were defeated on Election Day.”

But this whole meme is a classic example of illusion via the necessity of plugging people into pre-established MSM categories. The guy in charge of the Big Boys, the new NSRC chairman, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, was himself a co-founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus. His appointed lieutenant in this effort to “discipline” the crazy people is none other than Ted Cruz, the guy who actually campaigned on the insane Bircher-driven Agenda 21 “threat.” And even in the example supposedly driving this gambit, Akin’s primary win, it’s not as though the alternative candidates, who spent the entire campaign trying to out-conservative each other and Akin.

What this smells like is a game to convince donors It Won’t Happen Again, not some real shift of power away from movement-conservatives in the GOP. And the recasting of people like Moran, Cruz, and even Jim DeMint (quoted as expressing an interest in avoiding fractious primaries, which is sort of like a confirmed arsonist putting on a firefighter’s helmet) as “responsible” Big Boys is a prime example of how the GOP keeps managing to move Right no matter what happens.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on November 19, 2012 12:08 PM:

    I'll admit to being a bit happy that the Conservative response to the pretty bad beating this election cycle is to swear by the "We have the right message, we need a better messenger" meme. They absolutely do not have the right message, and the longer they keep promising themselves that the do, the quicker their demise will come.

  • Peter C on November 19, 2012 12:34 PM:

    For as much as they like to pretend otherwise, Republicans just haven't been terribly popular on a nation-wide basis. The last one to win decisively was George H. W. Bush (the elder) twenty four years ago and his popularity has definitely waned. Nowadays, they win in heavily gerrymandered house districts and in low-turnout off-year elections and in deeply red states with small populations. This gives them control of about half of the political power, but they've allowed themselves to believe that they enjoy an equivalent popularity. That is self delusion. Long may they cling to it.

  • Ronald on November 19, 2012 12:59 PM:

    Hard to believe the Republicans are taking that sort of thing seriously when they put Reince Priebus back in charge of the RNC.
    It's gonna be all wacko all the time...

  • Barbara on November 19, 2012 1:02 PM:

    Although I don't see any comparable Lugar type party challenges (Susan Collins?) in 2014, I can envision primary races in a few states with vulnerable dems in 2014: Arkansas (Pryor); Louisiana (Landrieu) and North Carolina (Hagan). If they nominated an out and out crazy they might lose an otherwise winnable race.

    I go back and forth in considering whether Landrieu is a net positive or negative for the Democratic party. She certainly doesn't help when it comes to addressing climate change.

  • DRF on November 19, 2012 1:08 PM:

    The Republicans should want to gain more control, or at least influence, in their selection process for Senate candidates. The fact that their conservative (non-crazy) candidates lost in certain states is no reason to be dismissive of their effort to avoid the huge mistakes that occured this time in Indiana and Missouri, and last election cycle in Delaware and Nevada, where stronger candidates would likely have won.

    The Democrats were able to do this in 2006 via the DSCC, led then by Chuck Schumer. They solicited good candidates and discouraged weaker candidates from running and, as a result, maximized their position in the Senate. The GOP will have a tougher time of it, since they will experience greater resistance from the Tea Party faction of the party, who can't be expected to go along with party leadership on this.

  • Domage on November 19, 2012 1:44 PM:

    It really doesn't matter whether the "Big Boys" are in charge--the Tea Party and all its bastard offspring are really in charge. They control the primaries, which means they control the candidates who ultimately get on the ballot.

    Which means ever-more-rightward extremes from anyone who wants to run as a Republican. Romney "wasn't conservative enough" to properly carry the message.

  • MuddyLee on November 19, 2012 1:54 PM:

    Reince Priebus - we need an evil twin character like Prince Reebus we can bring out to do battle with Reince Priebus. Calling Jon Stewart, Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Funny Times...