Todd Akin (MO). Richard Mourdock (IN). Ken Buck (CO). Christine O’Donnell (DE). Sharron Angle (NV). These are candidates who lost winnable senate races over the past two election cycles. Had they won, the GOP would be in control of both chambers of congress right now. So it is unsurprising to hear pundits (including “conservative” ones) repeatedly chastise the conservative base for nominating these failed candidates over safer alternatives.
But by only focusing on failed picks, the chattering class neglects the successes of movement conservatives over the past two cycles. Principled leaders like Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Marco Rubio (FL), Pat Toomey (PA) and Ted Cruz (TX) pushed establishment candidates out of the way to offer the American public true conservatism not tainted by the excesses of big government Republicanism. In the cases of Toomey, Rubio, and Ron Johnson (WI), swing states actually embraced their Tea Party fueled candidacies. These successes exemplify the point that true conservatives can nominate principled candidates and see success in the ballot boxes.
It would be a mistake for the GOP to get swept away in the current rhetoric. Republicans should strive to nominate principled conservatives who believe in small government, the protection of civil liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution, and the preservation of life. All that matters is ensuring that the candidates that are nominated are articulate and able to spread the conservative message effectively. The successful candidates possessed these attributes while the failed candidates did not.
This limited government message can be sent two years from now. While it might be a little premature to think about the 2014 mid-term elections, there is no reason to believe that the GOP will not wrest away at least a few seats from Democratic control.
A great many of the candidates up for re-election are Democrats who won their elections in conservative states. They rode the coattails of President Obama when the entire world was swooning over his candidacy in 2008. Now without the mirage of “The One” aiding their re-election bids, they will be left to fend off challenges from what should be a motivated conservative base - especially if the recovery remains anemic. (A scenario that is entirely plausible if taxes are raised or if Europe’s problems continue to fester even more).
For many of these Democratic senators, re-election should be difficult. Senators are up for re-election in red states like Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Arkansas. More competitive but winnable races also exist in Montana, South Dakota, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa. Assuming locks to win do not fumble the ball (a la Akin or Mourdock), the only seat the GOP even has the possibility of losing is Maine.
Obviously a lot can change two years from now, but if the GOP has any success during the next election cycle, it will depend entirely on nominating the right candidates. Contrary to what many would want us to believe, I have full faith in the conservative base propelling the right candidates to victory. Conservatives have learned from their mistakes. But they have learned a lot more from their successes.