Some people never learn

The Russian expression "stepping on the same rake twice" means to repeat a stupid mistake without learning from the adverse consequences. That idiom came to mind when I saw that the Club for Growth and Senator Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund are already on the warpath against a strong Republican candidate in one of the 2014 U.S. Senate races.

Far-right nominees cost Republicans U.S. Senate seats in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada in 2010, and in Indiana and Missouri this year. Maine probably belongs on the list too, because Olympia Snowe might not have retired this year if she hadn’t had to fear a primary challenge from the right. New Hampshire might have been on the list had Ovide Lamontagne defeated Kelly Ayotte in the 2010 GOP primary.

This week U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced that she is running for the Senate in 2014. The state has been trending Republican over the last decade and could be a good pickup opportunity, especially if longtime Democratic incumbent Jay Rockefeller retires. Capito has high name recognition and a lot of political experience. Yet the knives are out:

On day one of her candidacy, Capito received criticism from two conservative groups known for mounting primary challenges against establishment-backed Republicans: the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group founded by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Chris Chocola, president of the Club, slammed her as an “establishment candidate,” and Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins said the group wouldn’t endorse her.

“If the grass roots in West Virginia recruit a strong, viable challenger, SCF will seriously consider supporting them,” Hoskins said.

The early criticism indicates Capito, who is in favor of abortion rights and supported the auto and financial bailouts, could face a primary challenge from the right, though few prospects exist.

What is wrong with these people? Democrats have a big voter registration advantage in West Virginia. Is a more conservative Republican really more likely to win this election that Capito? I understand the goal of gaining influence within the Republican Party, but how does it help DeMint to be stuck in the minority?

Democrats have held at least two competitive U.S. Senate seats for every right-wing triumph (Marco Rubio winning in Florida after upsetting former Governor Charlie Crist in the primary, Deb Fischer winning this year’s race in Nebraska).

I don’t remember anything like this phenomenon on the Democratic side after some tough setbacks during the 1980s and 1990s.  

  • West Virginia

    I think Rockefeller (who I like a lot on most issues) feels obligated to his state to run again given that Joe Manchin (who I also admire) is so low in the pecking order.  The interesting question here is if Jay Rockefeller were to retire, could a DeMint favored candidate win the seat?  I think the momentum unfortunately says it’s quite possible.

    Capito truly is a reasonable person though, it she won her primary I think we could say that no matter who wins the GE West Virginia wouldn’t take a big step backward.

    • I don't know enough

      about the Democratic bench in WV. I would not be surprised if 2014 turns out to be a Republican bloodbath, so perhaps a DeMint-type candidate would have a chance. I could easily see WV turning into another example of Republicans blowing a winnable Senate race, though.

      • Agreed

        Agreed, they could very well blow it.  

        There’s a ton of Democrats who could run.  Nick Rahall would be an effective candidate and would run a very good race. Joe Manchin’s cousin Tim would probably be able to fundraise his way into a competitive race.

        Natalie Tennant would be a great candidate as well.  I think for some reason people would hold her pro-choice stance against her more than they would Jay Rockefeller.  It seems like in some states when a female candidate decides to run, the first thing people ask about is abortion.  

  • More broadly

    Other than one or two guys like Mike Allen who are pollsters, I am seeing no evidence that Republicans are even considering that their problem might be an unpopular message (that is, everything they want to talk about).

    I read their adult media like National Review and Weekly Standard for example and all I learn there is that their problems only are in not articulating their message with enough clarity and in somehow overcoming the unfriendly MSM.

    Their less-than-adult media like TIR etal shows utterly no hint of moderation ever coming about.

    Ingraham, Rush, etal are still being quoted and honored as sages.

    I see that even Santorum is gearing up again with no apparent change of his core message.

    Mitch sees no reason to moderate.

    Boehner is still afraid of the base.

    And whackos are still out there talking rebellions under several guises which shows that they still are wanting to dispute the legitimacy of the election.

    Crazy, totally crazy.

    • The thing is

      they might do very well in 2014 even without moderating their message. The economy could nosedive if federal domestic discretionary spending is cut way back, and the midterm electorate typically favors Republicans anyway. That will "prove" to many Republicans that their only problems in 2012 were media bias and a flawed messenger (Mitt Romney). You and I may realize that a Santorum-type candidate could not win 270 electoral votes, but their opinion leaders won’t recognize that.

      Boehner can keep his job for years without moderating. Gerrymandering has kept the House safe for Republicans.

      McConnell is in a different spot and should recognize why he’s not the majority leader by now.

    • Bothered me all day yesterday

      Something about that "Mike Allen" was wrong but I just couldn’t quite figure it. Just this morning I read an article written by Mike Murphy, BINGO!

      That’s what was wrong; I meant to write not ‘Mike Allen’ but ‘Mike Murphy’.

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