Happily, John Cornyn is out at the NRSC, but the very first idea Jerry Moran seems to have coming in the door as the Chairman is to start trying to pick the nominees in Republican primaries.
That’s a bad idea.
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.
…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.”
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.
…Other conservative senators who have clout with the base may be enlisted to this effort, as well, Moran said, such as Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, former head of Club for Growth.
Know why this probably wouldn’t work?
Because the NRSC starts with two assumptions baked in the cake that causes it to have a strong, anti-grassroots lean.
Assumption #1: The more moderate candidate is always more electable by virtue of the fact that he’s moderate. In heavily blue states like Massachusetts or Maine, there may be some truth to that, but it’s not true in all the blue states and it’s definitely not true in the purple or red states. As we should have learned as a party from running John McCain and Mitt Romney, moderate does not necessarily mean the same thing as electable.
This assumption is why you may, quite correctly, hear establishment Republicans complain that Tea Partiers blew winnable seats by backing Sharron Angle over a couple of more electable candidates or Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle, but you never hear them wonder whether they blew seats by backing Carly Fiorina over Chuck DeVore or Linda McMahon over Rob Simmons. Additionally, establishment-backed candidates lost more winnable Senate races in 2010 and 2012 than Tea Party back candidates, but those losses are just always waved off as if they’re irrelevant.
Assumption #2: Not only do Republican Party groups like the NRSC assume that the more moderate candidate is always more electable by virtue of the fact that he’s moderate, they also assume that winning the seat is everything.
That means if a Charlie Crist is up against Marco Rubio in a primary, they’re going to back Crist. If Arlen Specter is up against Pat Toomey, they’re going to be behind Specter. If it’s Trey Grayson vs. Rand Paul, they’ll want Grayson. If Ted Cruz is taking on David Dewhust, they’ll want Dewhurst.
The grassroots, on the other hand, is balancing two concerns. Yes, we want to win, but we also want to elect candidates who better represent our interests than many of the timid, patronizing, go-along to get-along, country club Republicans in the Senate. I’m not saying that the Republicans in the Senate are bad guys or that we don’t agree on anything, but people like Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham don’t represent the values of the grassroots the way that senators like Rand Paul, Pat Toomey and Jim DeMint do. It’s sort of like the difference between Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush: Reagan was one of us and W’s daddy looked at us as people he had to tolerate in order to get elected.
This is why Ted Cruz and Pat Toomey should be very careful about what the NRSC wants them to do. You will NEVER, EVER see the NRSC get involved in a primary in order to help a conservative candidate beat a moderate. If Toomey and Cruz are asked to get involved, they’ll be fed into a buzzsaw of Tea Party groups on behalf of some moderate mediocrity. That’s certainly their call, but those are the kind of mistakes that can haunt a politician for years (See Newt Gingrich and Dede Scozzafava or Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter)
Last but not least, there’s only one language that groups like the NRSC, RNC, and Crossroads speak: That’s cashflow. They don’t care what grassroots conservatives have to say, but they do respond to their money drying up. The first time any of those groups start playing in a primary to try to undercut conservative candidates, start encouraging everyone you know to send their checks somewhere else. There are a lot of groups helping the conservative movement and if any group decides it wants to fight against us, then at least make sure that it’s not going to be able to use your money to do it.