Commentary Magazine


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.

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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