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“Who’s Afraid Of Ted Cruz And Ken Cuccinelli?”: No Republican Is Conservative Enough To Avoid A Primary

Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) plan to fight President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reform during the debate over the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill didn’t go very well. Cruz raised a point of order against the bill, arguing that the portion funding the Department of Homeland Security is unconstitutional due to the president’s action. But Cruz’s move enraged his fellow Senate Republicans, unwittingly allowed Democrats to confirm some two-dozen Obama administration nominees who otherwise would not have gotten votes, and totally failed to stop the president. The measure was voted down 74-22, with 20 Republicans joining the Democratic majority to rebuke the Texas freshman.

Although Cruz reportedly apologized to his colleagues, the episode isn’t finished yet. Cruz evidently has a plan to get revenge against those who opposed him — with a little help from his friends.

In comments to Politico on Tuesday, Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli suggested that his group — with which Cruz has a close association — will target the senators who voted against him in the coming elections.

“People’s votes may by themselves inspire folks to say: ‘I’m running against this guy or this girl,’” Cuccinelli warned. “I have a funny feeling that some people who weren’t thinking of running two weeks ago are thinking of running now.”

So will the seven senators on the ballot in 2016 who opposed Cruz — Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dan Coates (R-IN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) — lose their jobs for opposing the Tea Party hero?

Probably not. Under closer examination, Cuccinelli’s threat rings rather hollow.

As right-wing groups have repeatedly proven, no Republican is conservative enough to avoid a primary. No single vote would have been enough to prevent 2014 challenges to Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), or John Cornyn (R-TX) — the 2nd, 8th, and 13th most conservative members of the Senate, according to National Journal’s 2014 rankings — and helping Ted Cruz try to blow up a government spending bill would not have saved supposed RINOs like John McCain or Kelly Ayotte from drawing right-wing opponents.

Additionally, it’s not clear that incumbents should actually fear a challenge from the Senate Conservatives Fund. In 2014, the group backed three candidates challenging Republican incumbents: Matt Bevin in Kentucky, Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, and Milton Wolf in Kansas. All three bombed in spectacular fashion.

“Our members know that our candidates are underdogs,” an SCF spokeswoman told The Washington Post in October, in an effort to defend the group’s performance. “The establishment has a lot more money and is willing to smear conservative candidates with false attacks. But they still want us to keep fighting because otherwise we wouldn’t have people like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul in the Senate today.”

That’s true. But it’s also a perfect explanation of why Republican senators have no reason to fear standing against Ted Cruz.

It’s entirely possible that some of the senators who opposed Cruz’s point of order will fall in 2016. But it’s extremely unlikely that last weekend’s vote will be the incident that doomed them.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 17, 2014

December 18, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Ken Cuccinelli, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell’s Tea Party Nightmare”: He Can’t Kill Them Because They Run His Party

OK, Sen. Mitch McConnell wasn’t brandishing a rifle at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday in order to shoot Tea Party marauders. The unpopular Senate Minority Leader was just trying to avoid being booed by the crowd, using the most reliable prop on the far right, a gun (President Obama in handcuffs would probably work well too). But the embattled leader did go ballistic this weekend, figuratively, on his party’s restive far-right activists. The Tea Party is not going to be able to knock off GOP senators in red states, McConnell warned.

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” McConnell told the New York Times. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

Not surprisingly, McConnell is starting with his own Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin. He released a new ad trashing not only Bevin but the Senate Conservatives Fund that’s backing him, charging the group “solicits money under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spends it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.” Wine and hot tubs, you know what that means – these folks are probably just uppity liberal hypocrites in conservative clothing!

But McConnell’s crusade comes a few years too late. Clearly the Tea Party is already the mainstream of his party.  Just last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that Republican voters say a candidate’s Tea Party ties make it more likely they’ll support them, by a margin of nearly 2-1. Unfortunately for the GOP, Tea Party affiliation makes the broader electorate less likely to vote for a candidate by about the same margin.

Even some Republicans who the media oddly place in the “moderate” or pragmatic camp don’t belong there. Wisconsin’s scandal-challenged Gov. Scott Walker has bragged about being the original Tea Party in Wisconsin.” In a popular CPAC session using Wisconsin as “the model” for union-busting and right-wing coalition politics, the RNC’s Reince Priebus credited “total and complete unity between the state party, quite frankly, Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party groups, the Grandsons of Liberty. The [Glenn Beck-instigated] 9/12ers were involved. It was a total and complete agreement that …everyone was going to run down the tracks together.”

And while it’s true that Congressman Paul Ryan, endorsed in 2012 by the Tea Party Express as “the strong Tea Party candidate for Vice President,” has had tension with Tea Partiers since he partnered with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to pass a budget, at CPAC Ryan downplayed the notion of a rift between himself and the party’s right, comparing intra-party debates to a “family reunion” among Irish-Americans. (Actually, nobody in my family wants to take lunches away from poor children, not even the Republicans among us.)

Now it is true that Tea Party challengers in three red states – Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas – are having a hard time getting traction against reliably conservative GOP senate incumbents. One poll has McConnell up 42 points over Bevin; another has his lead at 26 points. Thad Cochran and Pat Roberts are likewise leading their Tea Party challengers.

But oddly, McConnell – and the Times – don’t even mention Georgia, where five extremists have been virtually tied for the lead in the GOP senate primary to succeed retiring Saxby Chambliss, competing for the opportunity to run against Michelle Nunn. The most extreme of the five, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, just pulled ahead in the last PPP poll. Broun would abolish the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, and wants the U.S. to pull out of the United Nations. He’s called evolution and the big bang theory “lies from the pit of hell.” Interestingly though, Broun is the only GOP candidate with a (slight) lead over Nunn in an early head to head match up; the others trail her. Presumably, in a one on one race, Nunn and the Democrats would have a lot to work with battling Broun. He is an early contender to be the Todd Akin of the 2014 cycle.

“I know this: Politics doesn’t like losers,” McConnell told the Times, suggesting defeats in primaries in places like Kentucky and Mississippi would discourage Tea Party insurgents. “If you don’t have anything to point to, it is kind of hard to keep it going.”

But while McConnell has a big lead over Bevin, he’s trailing his Democratic challenger, secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. It’s far too early to count McConnell out, but it’s worth asking whether the far-right’s animus towards McConnell will make him the ultimate loser in November.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 10, 2014

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Conservative Isn’t Conservative Enough”: A Signal To The GOP Base That Even The Radicals Aren’t Radical Enough

With Sen. Tom Coburn (R) retiring at the end of the year, well ahead of the scheduled end of his term, there will be a Senate special election in Oklahoma in 2014. Given the fact that the Sooner State is one of the “reddest” in the nation, it’s very likely the seat will remain in Republican hands. The question is which Republican.

Rep. Tom Cole (R) and state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) quickly withdrew from consideration, but Rep. James Lankford (R) launched his campaign yesterday, vowing in his announcement speech to “continue Dr. Coburn’s conservative legacy.”

In theory, the right-wing congressman, elected in the 2010 GOP wave, would appear to be exactly the kind of candidate far-right activists would hope for. Conservative groups don’t quite see it that way.

[T]he Senate Conservatives Fund, a key pressure group, took the stark step Monday morning of saying – even before Mr. Lankford’s official announcement – that he will not be getting their support.

“We won’t support Congressman Lankford’s bid for the Senate because of his past votes to increase the debt limit, raise taxes and fund Obamacare,” said Matt Hoskins, the group’s executive director. […]

The Madison Project, another group that directs attention and money to the campaigns of anti-Washington candidates, said Mr. Lankford is the wrong candidate for the party. In a blog post, the group said Mr. Lankford isn’t a “purely liberal Republican,” but said he is “a quintessential status quo Republican.”

This isn’t an intra-party dynamic in which the Republican base rejects an electable, mainstream candidate, boosting Democratic chances of picking up a competitive seat.

Rather, this is the latest evidence that for GOP-affiliated organizations hoping to influence elections, being conservative is no longer conservative enough.

To hear the Senate Conservatives Fund and its allies tell it, Lankford is some kind of RINO. I poked around the ThinkProgress archive this morning to get a sense of some of the congressman’s greatest hits and found a few gems:

* Lankford believes sexual orientation is a “choice,” so employment discrimination against gay Americans should be legal.

* He believes climate change is a “myth,” pushed by those seeking to “control” people.

* He blamed “welfare moms” for gun violence.

* He wants the United States to defund and abandon the United Nations.

The Senate Conservatives Fund and its allies think this guy just isn’t conservative enough. Perhaps some folks are just tough to please.

In the larger context, though, the organizations’ dissatisfaction with James Lankford does help explain the growing tensions between the Republican Party and these extremist outside groups. When this congressman can’t meet the activist groups’ standards for conservatism, it signals to GOP leaders that there’s simply no point in trying to cater to their demands – even radicals won’t be seen as radical enough.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 21, 2014

January 24, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tea Party Consulting Scam”: The Real Conservatives Funded By The Senate Conservatives Fund

It’s worth reading Politico’s Manu Raju and Maggie Haberman’s recent story on the Senate Conservative Fund, an independent political group that used to specialize in backing “insurgent” primary candidates over “establishment” ones, and that now devotes the bulk of its spending against actual incumbent Republican elected officials — including, most notably, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The SCF’s leader, Matt Hoskins, has a “core team of five staffers” and no board of directors to answer to. The organization reports that it raised more than $9 million in 2013. It spent some of that money on campaigning for its chosen candidates. It has spent some of that money on … other things.

But without a board of directors, Hoskins and his team can choose to spend with little accountability.
Such expenditures include purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of conservative commentator Mark Levin’s books to hand out to donors as a freebie for their contributions. His group also paid $143,360 over three years to a luxury design firm to renovate office space in Washington townhouses, according to campaign-finance filings.

Between May 2010 and October 2013, Hoskins and his company, Bold Colors, have been paid, in total, $463,750, with an additional $72,000 from the SCF’s super PAC, records show.

To sum up: The SCF has paid more than a half-million dollars to the consulting firm run by the head of the SCF. But the detail that caused a minor conservative media shit storm was the detail about the SCF buying up Mark Levin’s book in bulk. A spokesperson for the RNC — the “establishment” — tweeted about it, which led to a bunch of true conservatives complaining about the dastardly accusation that Levin is somehow on the take, just because this group sent a bunch of money this way and he sends a bunch of donors their way. Levin said that the RNC spokesperson, who sent one tweet calling attention to the Politico story, “will not silence me with his sleazy inside-the-beltway tactics.”

And then Erick Erickson stepped up to defend Levin and the SCF, with a completely insane post comparing the symbiotic relationship between the SCF and Levin to the fact that a National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer had child pornography on his computer. I mean, yes, one is a “guilt-by-association” argument with no coherent financial motive while the other is a clear-cut conflict-of-interest deal, but still, they both happened. Erick Erickson: master of analogies. Erickson writes: “It is just as ridiculous to accuse Mark Levin and the Senate Conservatives Fund of a quid pro quo relationship when they happen to be allies in a fight and also happen to be friends.”

Even if we didn’t live in a world where explicit endorsements-for-pay were common among conservative radio personalities, it wouldn’t be “ridiculous” to assume that buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of a host’s book would lead to the host saying nice things about you. But the problem for Erickson’s argument is that we actually do live in a world where conservative groups pay talk radio hosts obscene amounts of money to boost their groups. And one of the hosts who does this is Mark Levin. It is a thing he does. He endorses groups for money.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, with the help of various talk radio people, made itself the most prominent group fighting against the GOP establishment on behalf of the Tea Party. That led to them raising lots and lots of money. That money goes to people running the SCF, in the form of salaries and consulting fees, and it goes to the people promoting the SCF, in the form of direct payments and mass book purchases. None of this is illegal (as far as I know, anyway). Is it immoral? Is it unethical? Not many people are interested in answering that question. Nearly every prominent national conservative is in on the graft, and the marks are people who write checks to fund the advancement of conservative ideas or the election of conservative politicians. All of this is exceedingly well-documented. And it doesn’t matter.

The thing about this grand bamboozling is that the marks want to be bamboozled. When you tell them that Glenn Beck is paid to have certain opinions, they truly do not care. Sending people money to fight for a cause you strongly believe in feels good. The apocalyptic pitches may be obviously manipulative to anyone outside the target demographic, but they obviously work. And for years, the scheme actually worked in the larger sense, of enriching people and advancing the conservative agenda. With the financial (if not political) success of the SCF’s nihilistic approach to strategy, conservatives invested in the actual policy agenda are starting to worry.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 14, 2014

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All In The Dysfunctional Family”: Boehner’s Blasts, One More Volley In The Long GOP Battle

With a few words that reflected a mountain of frustration, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has escalated the ongoing struggle over the future of the Republican Party. Whether it proves to be a truly crystallizing moment for a party still trying to find its way after its defeat in 2012 is the critical question.

For much of the year, the Republican Party has been in a deep hole, its credibility diminished, its image at historical lows and its direction heavily influenced by conservative tea party insurgents and their allied outside groups. This fall’s government shutdown only made the hole deeper. Boehner seems to have decided it’s time to stop digging.

The speaker’s blast at outside groups that were calling for the defeat of the bipartisan budget agreement, even before it was unveiled, has reverberated widely. Among other things, Boehner declared that these organizations, which also advocated the strategy that led to the shutdown, have “lost all credibility” because of their extreme positions and incendiary tactics.

Boehner’s comments did not trigger a Republican civil war, as some have suggested. The reality is that the internal conflict has been underway for years. Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama in the 2012 election intensified the debate, and those tensions will be front and center as the GOP heads toward a divisive round of primary elections next year and then a potential battle royal when it picks a presidential nominee in 2016.

Both factions in the GOP’s ongoing struggle — those in the tea party wing and those in the establishment wing — have real grievances. Tea party insurgents have long viewed their congressional leaders as capitulating repeatedly over the years on tougher spending cuts. They see Obama’s Affordable Care Act as such an egregious expansion of big government that it prompted them to embrace a budget strategy this fall that had no chance of success.

This past week, with the bipartisan budget deal negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the tea party activists see one more example of the party’s refusal to do more to rein in government. The fact that the agreement could spare all members of Congress — and the public — repeated reruns of budgetary standoffs and shutdown threats (likely political losers for the GOP) is not an adequate offset to them.

In terms of the presidency, many conservatives believe that the GOP has not nominated a true and authentic conservative for the job since Ronald Reagan. (Whether Reagan could win his party’s nomination today, given his gubernatorial record of raising taxes and expanding access to abortion, is another matter.) Neither Romney in 2012 nor John McCain in 2008 met their standards.

But it doesn’t stop there. Former president George W. Bush disappointed many in the party’s base who argue that he perpetuated Washington’s big spending ways. Former Senate majority leader Robert Dole, the party’s nominee in 1996, was derided by supply-side conservatives (among them former House speaker Newt Gingrich) as the “tax collector for the welfare state.”

Former president George H.W. Bush proved an apostate to tax-cutting conservatives for breaking his “no new taxes” pledge, an action that split his party in 1990. Conservatives such as Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, later recalled being elated when Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, seeing his defeat as an opening to create a more-conservative party.

Now it’s Paul Ryan who is the disappointment. Ryan has been the intellectual leader of conservatives in the House and, more broadly, in his party. Now he is seen as something of a traitor to the cause for negotiating the bipartisan budget deal.

But the GOP establishment has its own list of grievances and is threatening to fight back. Establishment Republicans view the purity police on the right with disdain. They believe in big-tent Republicanism and pragmatism when it comes to governing.

They see the tea party movement writ large as a decidedly mixed blessing, a faction whose grass-roots energy is valued, but which also has engaged in a series of divisive primary battles. It’s arguable that the tea party cost the Republicans four or five Senate seats over the past two elections. Had most of those races gone the other way, Republicans would be at near-parity with Democrats in the upper chamber.

Establishment Republicans have special scorn for outside groups that are fueling the primary challenges and trying to dictate to members of Congress the strategies they should pursue. These groups include Heritage Action, the Senate Conservative Fund and the Club for Growth — the ones that drove the disastrous shutdown strategy and oppose the latest budget agreement.

A few months ago, Boehner made himself an agent of this strategy, and both he and his party paid a big price. This past week, when these groups called for defeat of the Ryan-Murray budget agreement, Boehner blew his stack.

Whether this was a well-thought-out plan to launch an attack or a spontaneous statement by a fed-up leader isn’t clear. Whatever it was, he was able to marshal a big majority of Republicans to support the agreement in the House, along with a sizable majority of Democrats. The partisan breakdown of the vote in the Senate is likely to look considerably different.

Establishment Republicans hope the tea party’s influence will diminish as a result of the shutdown debacle. That will depend in part on the tea party’s success in challenging a number of incumbent GOP senators next year, but there’s nothing right now to suggest its adherents are in retreat.

The announced opposition to the budget deal by three Republican senators who are prospective 2016 presidential candidates — Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas — suggests that they at least believe the tea party wing will continue to be a powerful force in charting the GOP’s direction.

GOP strategist John Feehery said the fact that so many Republicans voted for the budget agreement in the House was “hugely significant” and gives members an opportunity to begin to do some repair work. “It allows Congress to do its job,” he said. “They can get the appropriations process going, go home and talk about accomplishments and get their ratings above 10 percent.”

That could help in next year’s midterm elections, which will be influenced as much by Obama’s approval ratings, the state of the economy and judgments about the new health-care law as by the relative popularity of the Republican Party. But whether Boehner’s pushback marks a real turning point inside the party is another matter.

The business community has vowed to become more active in the intraparty battles, but their history of success is spotty. Conservative groups, fueled by some big donors and grass-roots energy, show no sign of pulling back, but will the fire burn as strongly as it has in the past?

In the absence of a consensus, and with both sides committed to the fight, the intraparty conflict will probably shift from the House and Senate floors to future elections. As one GOP strategist put it: “We’re in for a long, bloody conflict. Inside the family, we’re going to duke it out, and the place you duke it out is where you’re supposed to, which is at the ballot box.”

 

By: Dan Balz, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 14, 2013

December 16, 2013 Posted by | GOP, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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