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June 05, 2014

Why Making Red State Senators As Conservative As Possible Is Important

Jim DeMint famously said he'd rather have 30 true conservatives in the Senate than a majority of moderates. He was widely derided for that notion and rightfully so. But he was onto something and it scares "establishment" Republican types.

Here's Jennifer Rubin dismissing the likely win by Chris McDaniel over Thad Cochran in the upcoming Mississippi Senate runoff.

And it might win narrowly in ultra-conservative places when the incumbent lacks redeemable qualities. Maybe it should stick to the last two categories (e.g. Ben Sasse in Nebraska, Joni Ernst in Iowa and McDaniel in Mississippi) while steering clear of the first group (e.g. challenging Mitch McConnell or John Cornyn). And it certainly should be avoiding altogether those swing states in which far-right candidates will be clobbered in a general election (e.g. Colorado, Nevada, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri) — that is, places where it would damage the GOP and lose the potential to take a Senate majority.

That, however, makes for an awfully small tea party sandbox, one that does not justify raising tens of millions of dollars and spending lavishly on its Beltway operators. It certainly doesn’t make sense to allow the players in a two-by-four-inch sandbox to control the whole playground or to wreck the party for the sake of candidates in states already in the deep-red category. In other words, to shut down the government and damage capable Republicans in order to win the already Republican Mississippi but lose every blue and purple locale is a rotten bargain.

In Rubin's view of things, there's no real value in making red seats redder. But there actually is and it ties into DeMint's idea, which was close but incomplete. You don't need a majority of the Senate to be strong conservatives, you need a majority of the Republican Senate caucus to be strong conservatives.

Sure the moderates will create some trouble but a lot of them are just followers. If the majority of the caucus is moving one way, they'll follow along or at least you can isolate them while the majority of the caucus goes on it's merry way.

Via Allah, case in point...Mike Lee for Majority Leader?

Among the “conservative reformers” and Tea Party types interviewed for this article, there is little illusion that unseating McConnell will be easy or even possible. The math simply isn’t there. At most, 10 Republican senators relied on significant Tea Party support to get into office. Rather, the hope is to rattle the cages a bit and make sure that the leadership of the Senate reflects the energy in the ranks.

A lack of contenders to replace McConnell also makes a putsch unlikely. Many of the most popular Tea Party Republicans, including Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are thought to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run.

One name that came up in repeated discussions was Utah Sen. Mike Lee, though he was only elected in 2010.

Mike Lee isn't going to become Majority Leader if the GOP wins control this November because as the quote says, the votes aren't there. Even if McConnell loses reelection and the spot is open, it's far more likely to go to someone like Lamar Alexander than it is Mike Lee.

The real problem is that red state seats are held by the likes of Lindsey Graham, Orin Hatch and even John Cornyn who are anywhere from liberal to moderate but not hardcore conservatives. These are the real wasted opportunities for conservatives. Win enough of those and you can afford to let the squishes win in places like Delaware or Washington.

And remember, with the majority of the caucus comes control of things like the NRSC. No more hiring of hack staffers who attack conservatives and no more recruiting guys like Charlie Crist. Squishes can try and cut deals with Democrats but a real conservative Majority Leader can cut that off by simply not bringing their bills to the floor.

Don't buy the "but conservatives will never win in swing states so stop trying to elect conservatives" nonsense. You don't have to be an absolute majority to do things you want. You have to be a majority of the majority and have a leader that comes from that part of the caucus as a whole.

So yes, it does make sense for conservatives to keep raising money and spending it to primary sitting moderate Republicans in red states. Worry first about replacing them with the most hardcore, electable (it's a package deal, not an either/or) conservative possible. Until that happens defeating Democrats is and should be a secondary concern for conservatives.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:16 AM

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