Commentary Magazine


Topic: National Republican Senatorial Committee

Preventing Another Akin

With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

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With Democrats defending almost twice as many Senate seats as Republicans in 2014, the GOP has a chance to make up for this year’s dismal performance and retake the Senate. But that also means reforming the National Republican Senatorial Committee to prevent future Todd Akin-esque candidates. Politico reports:

Now, top Republicans are considering splitting the difference between the heavy hand they wielded in 2010 that prompted sharp blowback from the right and their mostly hands-off approach of 2012. Both strategies produced a handful of unelectable candidates, so senators are gravitating toward a middle ground: engage in primaries so long as they can get some cover on the local level.

“We ought to make certain that if we get engaged in primaries that we’re doing it based on the desires, the electability and the input of people back in the states that we’re talking about,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, told POLITICO. “And not from the perception of what political operatives from Washington, D.C., think about who ought to be the candidate in state X.” 

The first-term Moran, who was elected to the spot last week by his Senate colleagues, tapped incoming Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz as a vice chairman for grass roots and outreach. The plan, according to party leaders, is to employ Cruz’s tea party star power to help win over activist groups that may be wary of the NRSC and help unify the GOP behind a single candidate in crucial Senate races.

Moran is an interesting choice to lead the middle-ground approach. He’s only been in the Senate for a year, and while he’s not exactly “establishment,” he also isn’t someone who thrills the grassroots. That could either help him work with both sides, or end up turning them both off. Deploying Cruz is also critical for the new NRSC strategy. Cruz replaces Orrin Hatch as vice chair, and could be instrumental in building relationships between the NRSC and local activists. He and Senator Rob Portman (who will serve as finance chair) will be important when it comes to fundraising, since Moran is expected to be weaker in that area.

Jim DeMint also tells Politico that political training — a more controversial proposal — will be necessary to prevent candidates from torpedoing their campaigns with a single stupid comment:

“We need to do a good job of recruiting; our candidates need more training, keep their foots out of their mouth,” DeMint told POLITICO. “There’s a reason why most politicians talk in sanitized sound bites: Once you get out of that, you’re opening yourself up to get attacked.”

In an interview, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman in the past two cycles, said the party needs to ask itself whether the goal is to prop up the most conservative candidate or push through the most conservative candidate that can win a general election. He said the party is reevalating its approach.

It’s actually a good time for a compromise. Both sides of the establishment vs. grassroots divide seem tired of losing for the past two elections, and both share equal amounts of the blame for it. They may finally be ready for a middle-ground approach.

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Rubio Won’t Chair NRSC, Eyes on 2016?

As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

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As I mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is facing some changes after last night’s defeats. RealClearPolitics reports that Senator Marco Rubio — who was considered a top prospect to replace outgoing NRSC chair John Cornyn — has turned down the spot:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been courted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to take over the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 midterm season, but the freshman lawmaker declined the entreaty, sources told RCP.

It might seem early to think about the next campaign cycle, but Senate leadership elections will take place in short order. And given the GOP’s losses in Senate races Tuesday night, the party is looking to make some changes.

The sources, who are familiar with Rubio’s decision, said the junior senator had mulled the leadership role for some time. As he often points out, however, being the father of four young children sometimes keeps him away from the campaign trail.

It’s easy to see why McConnell would want someone like Rubio revamping the NRSC and shielding it from some of the grassroots criticism, but there wasn’t much in it for Rubio if he’s looking at 2016. Not only would it have put him right in the middle of some of the goriest establishment-Tea Party fights for the next two years, but most of the big donors he’d meet through NRSC duty would already want to meet with him anyway. A lot to lose and little to gain.

The slot seems better suited for someone with longer-term Senate ambitions. Some other names being tossed around are Senators Roy Blunt, John Thune, Jerry Moran and Rob Portman. But Rubio’s rejection seems like a sign he sees the Senate as a path to bigger things rather than a place to build a career.

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The NRSC’s Big Problem

Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued the following statement after last night’s Senate defeats (via Politico):

We had many hard-fought races tonight and I’m proud to welcome several new Republicans to the Senate, particularly my fellow Texan Ted Cruz.   

But it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.  While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.  Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.

Politico’s Alexander Burns adds:

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Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued the following statement after last night’s Senate defeats (via Politico):

We had many hard-fought races tonight and I’m proud to welcome several new Republicans to the Senate, particularly my fellow Texan Ted Cruz.   

But it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.  While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.  Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.

Politico’s Alexander Burns adds:

The combination of Senate losses with Romney’s loss is part of what makes this election so difficult for Republicans to explain. If it had just been Romney who went down in defeat, well, that could be a problem with one candidate and one campaign. Similarly, if just one or two Republican primaries had produced weak nominees, those could have been flukes.

But we’re looking tonight at a national election in which the GOP failed to take advantage of enormous political opportunities on multiple levels, following a 2010 cycle in which Senate Republicans underperformed. Cornyn doesn’t say what exactly the work is that Republicans have to do in the “weeks and months ahead,” but much as Democrats concluded after 2004, it’s clear that something has to be done.

Something is obviously very wrong when the GOP lost ground in a year when Democrats were defending 23 seats and Republicans just 10. Cornyn and the NRSC will get the brunt of the blame, and they deserve some of it. They lost races that were close: George Allen in Virginia, Rick Berg in North Dakota, and Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

But some of the big losses were out of their control. After the blowback the NRSC received during the Tea Party wave in 2010, the committee stopped endorsing and openly funding primary candidates in open seats. That made it easier for an unfit candidate like Todd Akin to win the Republican nomination. There also wasn’t much the NRSC could have done about Richard Mourdock. While his poorly-worded comments about rape and abortion weren’t as outrageous as they were characterized in the media, they drew outsized attention because of the Akin controversy. And as for Olympia Snowe, the NRSC had no control over her retirement.

Still, there clearly needs to be a change, and Mike Allen reports on what that might look like:

Richard “Mourdock [in Indiana] and [Todd] Akin [in Missouri] join [Christine] O’Donnell, [Sharron] Angle, and [Ken] Buck as candidates that are embarrassingly not ready for the scrutiny of a Senate election. High-level operatives have already begun studying after-action reports to make a change in the business model to address this problem for next cycle.”

Most likely solution: Enlist conservative outside groups to try to steer electable candidates toward nomination.

Sort of like a shadow Republican Senatorial Committee. It would make it more difficult for an unprepared or unelectable candidate to win the nomination, without ruffling the grassroots.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

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