As I noted earlier the very cast of characters who tried to bring us “big government conservatism” and wound up seeding the tea party movement are at it again. This time they want to defeat conservatives by pooling millionaire dollars to label a bunch of squishes “conservative.”
They are, in essence, painting targets on the backs of a lot of candidates, making anyone they support suspect and ripe for defeat. But, truth be told, I am not sure how effective they can be. Their presuppositions they used are faulty and I think that will cascade into their foundation.
In fact, conservatives sent to Washington, despite the best efforts of groups like this, the people now talked about as the heroes of the party: Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, etc. These guys backed Charlie Crist. They did not see the merit of ousting Bob Bennett and, once done, lined up for Bridgewater against Lee. They backed Trey Greyson and David Dewhurst.
The very people who now excite the Republican base, lead the way on trimming government, and advance conservative ideas are the very people most likely to be opposed by this group and those like it.
But consider the Senate candidates conservatives are blamed for. It is this list that American Crossroads would have us focus on while ignoring the list of successful conservatives now in Washington pulling the GOP back to its roots.
Consider how many run of the mill Republicans, reporters, etc. blame conservatives for Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, Ken Buck, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock. Conservatives, because they supported them, are to blame. Never mind that these same people backed and funded Mitt Romney to the hilt and he showed time and time again that if any of the less than stellar candidates opposite him came within a 1 to 4 spending deficit against him, Romney would lose.
They would also have us ignore their pattern of relying on previously failed establishment candidates to run again and hopefully win — a strategy that proved disastrous for them across the board in 2012.
In Nevada, several outside conservative groups worked hard behind the scenes to support Danny Tarkanian. Here at RedState, I wrote several times that while I preferred Angle to the establishment favorite, Angle would not be a good general election candidate and it was best to look elsewhere. Other conservative groups felt similarly and only pivoted to her toward the end or after they became convinced Tarkanian did not have what it would take to win. Then, in the general, Jim DeMint spent more money helping her than the national Republicans did. The NRSC and others quickly tried to throw her under the bus as she was their nominee.
In Colorado, Ken Buck was a great candidate. He won independents by 18 points in the general. But he ran in a year that the Colorado GOP utterly collapsed with its gubernatorial nominee tainting most races, getting only about ten percent of the vote, and dragging down the whole field. More troublingly, the NRSC actively got involved in the primary against Ken Buck, allowing his opponent, Jane Norton, to use party money reserved for the GOP nominee to attack Buck in the primary. They wounded their own nominee who would go on to narrowly lose the general election.
In Delaware, many conservative, myself included, made the conscious decision that it would be far better to have the Democrat win than Mike Castle because of what Castle would do whispering in the ears of Republican leaders. Few of us thought she could win. But Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint get particular blame for their endorsements, which totally ignores that those endorsements came when it was clear O’Donnell was on a glide path to victory in the primary as Delaware Republicans were rejecting Mike Castle without much outside help from conservatives.
Fast forward to 2012.
There were not a lot of national conservative groups who supported Todd Akin in the primary. To suggest otherwise is revisionist history. Conservatives were badly divided in Missouri. Many of us, myself included, were wholly unimpressed with Akin in the primary, chose not to weigh in much at all, and encouraged him to get out in the general.
We did, however back Richard Mourdock and I do believe that had the Akin matter not happened, Mourdock probably would have won. But it is what it is. Mourdock, despite a statewide win, was a weak candidate who was beaten by a pro-life populist Democrat.
What all of this ignores is that, with the exception of Akin, all the candidates started out as grassroots candidates within their home state only later attracting attention from outsiders. Every one of them started out from the grassroots and did so as a reaction to Washington establishment groups, like this new Conservative Victory Project, choosing to crown their own favorites.
The same happened in Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, and Utah, among others, where conservatives were quite successful against the establishment.
The arrogance in the Conservative Victory Project is in presuming that they are somehow best qualified to pick the nominees. What they ignore is that each of the conservatives and races I’ve mentioned came about because of that presumption — in reaction to it. By doing more of it, the Conservative Victory Project, American Crossroads, and the NRSC itself risk more of it happening.
Their underlying presumptions are wrong, which means the way they will proceed will be wrong and undermine their goals. To be sure, candidates like Akin and others need to be weeded out. And there is room for conservative groups and these to find common ground on candidates. But the initial public unveiling on the pages of the New York Times only sets up this new group as a squish promoter and yet another effort by former Bushies to yet again harm what it means to be conservative.
It is very telling that the unveiling came in the pages of the newspaper least trusted by, not just conservatives, but by Republicans in general.