Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Republicans Are Recruiting RINOs - But Why?

Politico has a good article today on the NRSC’s latest candidate recruitment. The committee - which is run by conservative Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) - has been recruiting moderate Republicans to run for Senate in 2010.

The party’s top choice for Florida’s open Senate seat is popular Gov. Charlie Crist, who raised eyebrows earlier this year with his vigorous advocacy of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package — he even went so far as to appear with Obama at a Florida rally in February. In Connecticut, the national GOP has lobbied former Rep. Rob Simmons — who holds a higher lifetime rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action group than Specter does — to challenge Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

In Delaware, where there is widespread consensus that just one Republican — Rep. Michael Castle, the co-founder of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership — can win Joe Biden’s former seat, the push is on to get him to announce for the Senate.

In the Midwest, there’s Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, another leading centrist viewed as the GOP’s best hope of capturing a blue-state Senate seat — the one Obama vacated after he was elected president.

On the West Coast, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas is hoping to land self-proclaimed moderate businesswoman Carly Fiorina to run against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a state that gave Obama 61 percent of the vote.

It is a quiet and pragmatic move on the part of the GOP. They are looking for candidates that represent the state’s local values over party ideologues and they’re specifically targeting states in which the Democratic senators have "screwed up".

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) - the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee which oversaw the bailout - is a good example of a Senator who fell from popularity in his home state. Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), on the other hand, was never popular to begin with due to his ties to former Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-IL).

But the party is moving further to the right and many right-wing activists have already been trying to purge moderate members that are currently in office. Similarly, they are trying to ensure their party doesn’t move any further left with the new challengers.

"Sen. Cornyn has done a great job with recruitment," said Carl Forti, a Republican consultant who headed the National Republican Congressional Committee’s independent expenditure effort in 2006. "The ironic thing in the House and Senate is you need moderate candidates to win if you want to be successful. That’s why you currently see Pennsylvania Republicans looking for a moderate to take on Toomey, because of the belief that while Toomey is fine in a primary, he can’t win the general election because he’s too conservative. This will be an ongoing problem for the party"…

…Still, despite the focus on a moderate-rich recruiting class, it’s not a foregone conclusion that all of them will be on the ballot in November 2010. In Connecticut, Florida and Pennsylvania, viable conservative candidates are already running against the national party’s darlings.

In Connecticut, state Sen. Sam Caligiuri is running against Simmons and is expected to attack his moderate voting record in Congress. If Crist runs, he’ll have to defend his support of the stimulus against a more conservative opponent, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio. And any Republican who jumps into the Pennsylvania race will have to get past Toomey, whom conservatives laud for forcing Specter out of the party.

"It’s ironic but not surprising that the Senate Republicans would see a path that would be blazed by moderates," said Republican pollster Adam Geller. "There’s a chunk of GOP voters that won’t make the political calculation and rather would stand with their principles, even if it means they lose."

One could see the recruitment of these "RINOs" (or Republicans-In-Name-Only) as an experiment. If some can get past the primary it will demonstrate where the GOP base is most ideological and where it is more pragmatic. If some of these moderate Republicans can win their General Elections, this may prove to be an important strategy that could dramatically shift GOP campaign operations in the years to come.

But for 2010, the best that Republicans like Cornyn can hope for is gaining more insight as to how to retake power.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Getting Inside the Heads of the GOP

Since the November elections we have been looking at the discord and confusion within the Republican Party. With the 2010 elections coming to the forefronts of our minds, the GOP doesn’t seem to have made much ground.

So what are they thinking?

Following his departure from the GOP last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) made his points about the direction of his old party.

Immediately following him was an interesting conversation between host David Gregory, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, and former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie. It was a good chance to hear the thoughts from within the Republican Party.

And an online follow-up.

Obviously there is a lot of confusion, but despite a scrambling opposition, Democrats should be worried about one particular message the GOP has discovered - "checks and balances".

It seems that some new push-poll data conducted by Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies has found it to be an effective argument for GOP campaigns. “Our latest national survey provides strong evidence that voters are concerned that they have given too much power to one political party and that Republicans can provide a check and balance,” said pollster Glen Bolger.

They may not have it all figured out, but the GOP is coming closer to a cohesive message for the 2010 elections. Democrats should make a note of it.