My friend John Feehery has a piece in the Wall Street Journal that I read today with much amusement. My response requires a bit more space than would work for the WSJs blog, so I figured Red State would be an appropriate venue (thanks Erick!). I want to first review what Feehery wrote about former Club for Growth President Pat Toomey when he announced his was challenging incumbent Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA):
This is gut-check time for the Republican Party. They can be serious about taking back the Congress, or they can look good losing. Pat Toomey may be ideologically pure, but he can’t win in Pennsylvania. If he could, John Cornyn wouldn’t be taking such a strong position for Specter (and against Toomey). Arlen Specter can be a maddening figure to many conservatives, but he sides with the Republican leadership more often than not, and for the GOP to have any chance to take back the Senate a year from November, they need his seat to stay Republican.
Toomey, of course, went on to win in a state, Pennsylvania, that has 1,000,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans with the strong support of the Club for Growth PAC. Specter switched parties and was the 60th vote for ObamaCare.
Here’s Feehery, again, in 2009, praising then-Republican Charlie Crist as the most “electable” Republican. And also praising Crist for standing with Obama to promote his economic stimulus package.
Crist has made some tough calls that have angered some of his constituents. For example, he took the stimulus money from the Federal government, and actually had the temerity to appear with the President in an event promoting the economic stimulus package. But that decision has not only helped Crist politically with general election voters, it has also helped Florida by giving the governor more leverage with the White House when it comes to other issues.
Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey, or Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter? Easy decision for me, and for most Republicans. And while John will point to so-called “extreme” candidates that lost in the past, he also conveniently ignores “electable” moderates like Denny Rehberg (who actually ran against the Ryan Budget!) and Rick Berg who lost winnable Senate races in Montana and North Dakota last cycle, in states easily carried by Mitt Romney.
John is a good guy, who I respect. He’s also a registered lobbyist who represents such business-interest groups as the “Red State Renewables Alliance” (See video above. I call it: Republicans for the Wind Production Tax Credit!) and here he is working for the Realtors opposing the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (The Realtors, by the way, spent nearly $300,000 supporting Mike Simpson in the Idaho race). John supports policies that grow the size and scope of government – and he’d be the first person to admit that (like I said – he’s actually a good guy!) which is why he demonstrates such revulsion at conservative candidates.
The Idaho race perfectly represents the friction going on within the Republican Party right now. In a race with no possible chance of a Democrat being elected (Idaho's 2nd CD is an R+17), groups like the Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce supported the candidate that supports an agenda of corporate welfare and bailouts. The Club’s PAC supported the candidate that did not. So yes, I can’t wait to support more champions of economic freedom next cycle. Trillions in debt can’t go on forever – despite what folks like John Feehery think.
Barney Keller is the Communications Director for the Club for Growth