Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Purging the Republican Party

Tomorrow John McCain will officially have an opponent for 2010 - but it won’t be a Democrat.

Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, will be taking on the former GOP Presidential candidate in the Republican Primary. Politico’s Ben Smith includes a sample of tomorrow’s press release:

"John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness," Simcox said. "He has fought real efforts over the years at every turn, opting to hold our nation's border security hostage to his amnesty schemes. Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough."

But McCain is not the only prominent Republican to have such opposition from within the party. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has to worry about a Primary rematch with the more conservative Pat Toomey, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) has a Primary battle with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for his re-election, and former House Minority Whip Roy Blunt is not considered a shoe-in for the Missouri GOP’s Senate nomination.

Blunt had a disappointing first-quarter, raising about $542,000. As a result, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is expected to jump in to the race soon. She might be the last person Blunt wants to face.

From Politico:

"I like Roy Blunt, but the Republican Party keeps going back to the same old names, and we’ve lost a lot of races doing that," said Lincoln County GOP Chairwoman Carol Wessel. "You got to have that money to run, and I just think people are just being cautious right now with their money."

"Roy Blunt has been a very big part of the mess we’re in. His new wife is a lobbyist. His children are lobbyists. We need a fresh face up there," said Norm Harty, a longtime Republican activist and donor from southeast Missouri. "He’s going to have blood dripping from him; he’s going to be so beaten up."

…Steelman ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2008…[but she] managed to cultivate a populist following that she seems poised to tap into once again. Thus far, she has been running a shadow campaign, marked by two relatively quiet trips to Washington over the past two months and small, private meetings with prospective donors and organizers. More recently, Steelman has ramped up her visibility by speaking at a central Missouri tea party on Tax Day and unveiling a revamped political website.

The GOP has had to re-examine itself in recent years since the Democrats retook Congress in 2006. To many Republican activists, the GOP lost the confidence of the people for increasing the size of government, increasing the national debt, and increasing the influence of lobbyists. Before they return to power, these conservative, populist activists will want to purge their party of the politicians who embodied that Washington-insider culture.

Could it backfire on them?

Democrats seem to think the split in the GOP could be beneficial come 2010. In Pennsylvania, both Specter and Toomey are warning Republicans that their opponent would lose a General Election.

Specter says Toomey “is a surefire loser in November,” while Toomey insists that "Voters are just fed up with Sen. Specter”.

But Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney thinks that the GOP battle will be what helps the Democrats. "Now is a perfect time for people like myself to shut up and sit back and watch the show," he says.

Meanwhile in Texas, far-right Governor Perry is skating on thin ice for his recent comments about the right to secede from the union, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize in a big way.

Also from Politico:

Perry, who won with less than 40 percent in a four-way general election field in 2006, is not popular with the general voting public in Texas. He is, however, the darling of the far-right wing that dominates the Republican primary electorate. Chances are that he may defeat Hutchison in a mean, ugly, down-and-dirty primary next March. If he does, his victory could rip apart the Republican Party and open the door for a moderate Democratic to achieve a clean win in November.

Tom Schieffer may be just that candidate. He’s a former Texas Congressman who is business-friendly and served as an ambassador during the Bush Administration. While he might not be a darling of the Democratic base, he would certainly be acceptable in the eyes of moderate Texans if Perry should win the Primary.

It makes sense for the populists in the GOP to try to purge themselves of elected-officials that represent the beltway, but if they try replace them with figures further to the right they might be in for a big surprise - most Americans just aren’t as conservative as they are.

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