So Much for GOP Unity in 2014

Republicans looking longingly at their last best chance of recapturing the Senate for years to come have to first fend off primary challenges

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Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell

The Republican Party’s unity project is not turning out to be much of a “Kumbaya” around the campfire.

A year after GOP leaders vowed that infighting between the party establishment and Tea Party activists would not derail Republicans’ electoral hopes again, the air appears as toxic as ever.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, facing a primary challenge in Kentucky, said on Tuesday that one of the outside groups funding insurgent candidates is “giving conservatism a bad name” and “participating in ruining the [Republican] brand.” Earlier that day, the head of the group accused him of trying to “blacklist” political strategists who work with Tea Party candidates. Late on Monday, a firebrand Congressman who brought Ted Nugent to the State of the Union pulled the trigger on a surprise primary against the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn.

Now, with the 2014 midterm elections nearing and Republicans looking longingly at their best chance of recapturing the Senate, many of the party’s power brokers first have to fend off primary challenges in eight of the 12 states where they have incumbents seeking re-election. “There is no magic wand that’s going to do away with primaries,” says former New York Republican Representative Tom Reynolds, a leading party fundraiser. “We’re just going to have to go through this.”

Maybe not a magic wand. But GOP elites had certainly hoped for better when they triumphantly announced in the New York Times a new super PAC, the Conservative Victory Project, that would direct money toward Establishment-friendly candidates and away from conservative firebrands, like the ones who cost them winnable Senate races in 2010 and 2012. Senate leaders even gave Tea Party icon Ted Cruz a spot on the party’s campaign committee, in a bid to quell damaging primary challenges.

But those efforts created a backlash, conservatives say. And Cruz won’t even endorse his Texas colleague Cornyn, the minority whip, in his primary fight. “The establishment signaled very early in this election that they were going to be hostile to the grassroots,” says Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group that’s been helping to bankroll primary challengers. “They sent a message that said, ‘We don’t care what you think, we don’t value your opinion, and we’re going to muscle you out.’”

Tempers ran especially hot during October’s government shutdown, when conservatives resented Senate leaders for abandoning a mission to blunt President Barack Obama’s health-care-reform law. By the time the conservative website Breitbart reported last month that McConnell had said during a conference call that the Tea Party movement is “nothing but a bunch of bullies” whom he would “punch … in the nose,” activists were ready to believe the worst. It mattered little when the Washington Examiner made it clear McConnell had only used that language about the Senate Conservatives Fund specifically.

“What we’ve seen over the last few months is unprecedented hostility from the party leaders in Washington toward their own voters and their own base of support,” Hoskins says.

Establishment-friendly Republicans, not surprisingly, see things quite differently. They argue they’re the ones leading a backlash against overzealous conservatives ready to nominate time-bomb candidates like Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin, who will drop tone-deaf lines about witchcraft and “legitimate rape” just in time to blow winnable races.

“Groups saying ‘You can’t have a voice in the primaries,’ but then we have to pick up the tab for candidates you nominate, our supporters wanted to get involved in these primaries,” Republican überstrategist Karl Rove tells TIME. Rove helps run the Conservative Victory Project. “The backlash was against the idea that the Senate Conservatives Fund [and other outside groups] are the only ones allowed to be involved in primaries,” he added.

While the Conservative Victory Project has yet to do much in the way of paid advertising — it’s still early in the cycle — it has been active in researching possible candidates, advising donors where to direct funds, and warning off conservative groups from candidates who could be trouble, according to people familiar with its operations. The message being communicated to conservative activists, as one insider put it: “If we’re not there for the takeoff, don’t expect us to be there for the landing.”

And if it seems from 30,000 feet like electable incumbents are about to start dropping like flies as Dick Lugar and Bob Bennett did in recent cycles, the view from ground level is more favorable. With the exception of high-profile races in Kentucky and Mississippi, many of the other incumbents are facing challengers nowhere near as potent.

“The only one on the Senate side that’s serious is [in Mississippi]. I don’t see others that are,” says Charlie Black, a longtime Republican lobbyist and strategist. “It’s a free country, and anyone’s entitled to run. But we haven’t had that many actually.”

A Politico report that conservative groups are so far holding their fire in Texas Representative Steve Stockman’s last-minute campaign against Cornyn is the clearest sign yet that even would-be cage rattlers have been spooked by so many winnable Senate races that slipped away because of flawed candidates in recent years. “I would want to see Stockman vetted well so we don’t have an ‘oops’ moment,” one local Tea Party leader told Politico.

The danger for Republicans is not so much that incumbents who could easily win re-election will get knocked off before they can even make it to November, but that precious money and manpower will be spent on them when it could be directed elsewhere in the party’s effort to take back control of the Senate. That larger campaign has little if any margin for error: Republicans need to pick up six seats to end the Democrats’ 55-45 majority.

“Every single dollar you spend on Steve Stockman, every single dollar that gets spent on a race like that, is a dollar that you’re not spending against [Democrats],” GOP strategist Rick Wilson says. “We ought to be pursuing the decapitation of the Democratic majority, rather than a suicidal feud that’s going to come to nothing.”

Wilson, a consultant who straddles the Tea Party–vs.-Establishment chasm better than many, adds: “I’m not saying the Establishment is without fault. The desire to pick and choose, especially when it’s an open primary, has led to a lot of the absurd situations we got into in the past. The Tea Party would stop acting out if the Republican Party would bring them inside the tent.”

That leaves many GOP leaders just hoping, as they have all year, that Republicans will stay out of their own way. “I think it’s just going to get worse and worse for the Democrats with Obamacare,” Black says. “If we can stay out of our own way and not create distractions that allow Democrats to get on offense, it’s going to be a great year for us.”

16 comments
WesleyNemes
WesleyNemes

Republicans will only stand a chance if they leave the  - I got my and you're on your own crowd. They need to show leadership as uniters. Americans are onto the divide and conquer game politicians play. Religious and moral issues should be left to the clergy. Americans are only interested in strong economy, good paying jobs, and re-building the middle class. Closing the gap between the rich and poor platform could assure their win, fairness in taxation should be of high priority, Americans are tired of flipping the bill for the rich, stop corporate welfare, everyone should pay the same tax rate. The austerity path is still largely instilled but even IMF retracted the idea and it is now a meter of time for politicians to leave it. Those that realize it will win future elections.

sacredh
sacredh

It's a civil war for the heart and soul of the republican party. Unfortunately, the heart is a piece of rancid meat and the soul is soul less. They care very little for the poor and working classes, not to mention women, the young and minorities. The GOP is reaping what they have sown, and it's inedible.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

Whatever their internecine battles, the Republicans face an impressive obstacle: they have nothing to offer the American people.


The GOP defines itself by what it is against, not what it is for.  Because it's for nothing.


Their basic "principle" -- a misnomer, since they have no principles -- they claim is fiscal responsibility.  This is beyond a joke.  The GOP inherited a $350B surplus from Clinton and promptly turned that into a $500B deficit by huge tax cuts for the wealthiest.  


They then ran up $7T in federal debt by spending and spending and spending, but not raising the money for all that sending.  They created a recession by excessive deregulation and lack of oversight of the financial industry, and then squawked about helping those who were put out of work by the Republican recession.


Now they view those tax cuts as sacrosanct and insist that services for everyone else (except defense, of course) have to be cut just so the wealthy can keep their huge tax breaks.


So, they define themselves as follows:


1. the GOP is against spending on human services of any kind (transportation, education, health care, day care, universities, medical research, clean air, clean water, safe consumer products, safe food, … all that kind of stuff.)


2. the GOP is against immigration and immigrants


3. the GOP is against abortion.  This is not the same as being pro-life, which they decidedly are not.  (Only in Republican group-think are the two equivalent.  To real people, they're worlds apart.)  They only care about controlling women's bodies, not about supporting, feeding, nurturing and educating the results of the pregnancies that the GOP so shrilly wants to keep going.


4. the GOP is against the 20th and 21st centuries: evolution never happened, science is a hoax, if it isn't in the Bible, it didn't and doesn't happen


5. the GOP is against contraception, and in fact is against the whole idea that women should control their bodies


6. the GOP is against gays, Latinos, blacks, in fact they're against anyone who isn't old, spiteful and white


7. the GOP is against Europe, Asia and Africa, and Canada and Mexico, too, for that matter.  Australia is still debatable.


8. The only thing the GOP is for is spending more money on guns and military hardware, and, of course, starting and running the wars that they will throw to justify military expenditures.


As I said, the GOP has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer America.

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

Unity? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Republicans, and thee.

drudown
drudown

Tell me, what "good" for the People are these PHONY "distinctions" between one alleged "wing" of the GOP when THEY ALL VOTE THE SAME WAY? For all the shopworn BS about how "ideology" drives the decisions, it is just allegiance to the SAME lobbyist regime that RULES the GOP and, as such, operates to SUBVERT the People's best interests. So, feel free to "regurgitate" this LOBBYIST-driven narrative that whether or not GOP incumbents like Sen. Cornyn are "primaried" for "not being conservative enough" makes one iota of difference to the voters. It doesn't. 


Namely, conspicuously absent from such analysis is the fact the democrats can and likely will pick up substantial seats in the House in 2014 and pass much more comprehensive Budgetary measures (e.g., closing Corporate tax loopholes) to "bolster" this template that (what else) simply averts the "suicidal" Tea Party politics. And given the GOP is going to "bet" its fortunes on the Tea Party candidates that effectuated the injurious "shut down" and overt threats to "end all entitlements", voters are just going to vote them out. Between (1) "a democratic majority that ends corporate give aways" and (2) "a Tea Party-led anarchy that wants to nail the coffin shut on the middle class by refusing to even fund the State, Education, Health Care, General Welfare and Common Defense"? For what the democrats may lack in terms of controlling the Media message, they make up for in pragmatic appeal and clearly provide the best path back to what America was under Clinton Administration. 



"After the event, even the fool is wise." - Viscount Symonds


One need look no further than the GOP's LIES about the ACA. 


Let’s try to just be “objectively honest”, shall we, so we can categorically resolve this feigned “dispute”?

Either the recently released data tends to prove that since the ACA was enacted, Health Care costs have slowed to significant levels, or the data is what GOP "leaders" claim it to be.


See, e.g.,

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/business/affordable-care-act-so-far-seems-likely-to-cost-less-than-expected.html?_r=0


President Obama's local and factually-based claim that the ACA is SLOWING Health Care costs is corroborated by the following evidence highlighted in the New York Times and many, many other reputable, independent sources because, with no particular surprise in so observing, the ACA’s competitive pricing component, coupled with improving upon the “proven” model in MA, tend to make Health Costs, well, more affordable.


Sorry, even early, NON-BIASED studies readily concluded the same and, as such, predicted the same result that I am corroborating:


See, e.g.,

http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412665-Despite-Criticism-The-Affordable-Care-Act-Does-Much-to-Contain-Health-Care-Cost.pdf

As any reader can see, my conclusions comport with reality. Yours are unfounded gibberish until you proffer any evidence. Yet none supporting GOP conclusions exists.


“Truth fears no trial.” - Thomas Fuller, M.D.

Let's juxtapose your alleged "poll data" to PROVEN instances of MISREPRESENTATION by the GOP, shall we?


Contrary to GOP promises, the alleged economic upside of the Bush Tax Cuts proved to be false and did not lead to a stronger Economy.


Contrary to GOP promises, the Patriot Act was not used for apprehending terrorists at all, but engaging in the largest, warrantless "dragnet" against LAW ABIDING, innocent US citizens with no connection to terrorism whatsoever. 


Contrary to GOP promises, there was no strategic benefits to the US in invading Iraq and Wolfowitz LIED when he said the "oil revenues alone will pay for the Iraq war."


So please. How does "this wing" have any more credibility than "the TP wing" when NONE of the GOP has any semblance of credibility- not just on the Economy (e.g., if the GOP economic model "works", the US would've been "stronger" after the W era…not so)- but just in terms of this FABRICATED, wholly disingenuous GOP "guiding precept" that the People "don't really want" the State to AFFIRMATIVELY take measures to IMPROVE our lives, Military, Diplomacy and JOB PROSPECTS…but that the ACA does anything OTHER than what the EVIDENCE shows. Notably, for all your GOP "paid for" Media blustering, the GOP cannot cite a SINGLE, reputable source to support such claims the ACA has increased Health Care costs. 


Res ipsa loquitur.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Sure the TPers get all the attention but the Paulites have some juice too.


Up until now Rep Kline ( MN-2) was as safe as a republican could be. The Paul people took over the state republican party and now…who knows where it ends?

His (Gerson's) campaign chairwoman is Marianne Stebbins, a longtime GOP activist closely associated with former Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a tea party favorite.

Stebbins is the Ron Paul miracle worker for Minnesota. She is probably the single most effective organizer in the Minnesota Republican Party - and she will make John Kline's 2nd District endorsement a nightmare.


http://www.mnpact.org/sblog/blog.php?id=3955 

jmac
jmac

@drudown Exactly - the Wing of the GOP IS the GOP.    Once right wingers like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz started winning in the Senate (Lee taking out a very conservative Senator), the party is over.    The Dems moved Center, the GOP went off the cliff. 

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

There are a lot of roeless herrings in this Congress

therealdude
therealdude

@jmac @drudown IMO, the Dems became Nixon-era Republicans and the Republicans became reactionaries. I say this because the "socialist nightmare" Obamacare was a really just the Heritage plan finally realized under a Dem president. Obama has put cuts to things like social security on the table in budget negotiations in trade for modest tax increases, which is unusual for a Dem president. Obama has also signaled a willingness to signing the Transpacific Partnership, which is more of a huge corporate wish list than a trade bill. Several people in his cabinet during his first term were former Bush people. Drones and NSA spying galore and it looks like he wants to drag Afghanistan forever and it seems like he's almost as hawkish as Bush was.

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

Would you, could you kill the king?

Could you do this stain'd thing?

Could you kill him in his bed?

Put a dagger through his head?

I would not, could not kill the king

I will not do this awful thing

Now go away and let me be

and get thee to a nunnery.


~Ted Cruz

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

Claps em right on the table and says "God send me no need of thee."

X3t

jmac
jmac

@therealdude @jmac @drudown Obama made it very clear in the primary debates that he was a Blue Dog.  Why bleeding heart liberals like Ed Shultz, the whole gang at Air America, Michael Moore, etc.,  thought he was a liberal is beyond my understanding.   He clearly wasn't a liberal on health care.  He apparently wooed them with his vote on Iraq; yet his advisors clearly were telling everyone not to listen to what he was saying on the campaign trial on foreign policy.  


The lesson is don't listen to the candidate preach to the crowds; listen to what he says to editors across the country  (the conservative Dallas Morning News endorsed him over Hillary)  and what his advisors say.  Big difference.