Lesson learned: NRSC pledges to stay out of contested primaries
posted at 2:55 pm on November 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Give credit where it’s due. After a strange decision to endorse Governor Charlie Crist in next year’s Florida primary race for the open Senate seat when Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio had already thrown his hat in the ring, the NRSC has learned something from the NY-23 debacle with Dede Scozzafava. Senator John Cornyn, chair of the NRSC, tells ABC News that the group will not spend any money in contested primaries, allowing each state’s Republicans to choose the best candidates to represent them in the 2010 general election:
With Republicans grappling with the fallout of an intra-party battle that may have cost them a House seat, the head of the Senate Republican campaign effort is making a pledge that may ease some of the anger being directed at the party establishment.
“We will not spend money in a contested primary,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC News in a telephone interview today.
“There’s no incentive for us to weigh in,” said Cornyn, R-Texas. “We have to look at our resources. . . . We’re not going to throw money into a [primary] race leading up to the election.”
Cornyn did put the caveat on the pledge that limited it to open seats. The NRSC may still decide to protect Republican incumbents from primary challenges. However, I’m not sure where that would be a problem for the GOP in 2010. The biggest RINO, Arlen Specter, has already switched parties.
It does present a problem in Florida, where Cornyn and the NRSC has already endorsed Crist. Cornyn sounded a conciliatory note to Rubio, though:
Cornyn had praise for Rubio, and said he’s sure that he would win the general election if he gets past Crist in the primary. Cornyn said he’s confident that — unlike in upstate New York — Republicans will settle their differences in the primary.
“The first lesson is that competitive primaries are generally a good thing,” Cornyn said. “To me, that’s the overarching lesson to be learned out of the 23rd. When 11 people get behind closed doors and pick the nominee … the grassroots are going to find an alternative.”
Indeed they will — when the party bosses pick a Dede Scozzafava. The party bosses in NY-23 at least had a reason to make an appointment; the special election schedule left no time for a primary. The NRSC had no such excuse when they attempted to anoint Crist as the Republican nominee earlier this year.
We understand that the role of the national party and the NRSC and NRCC is to elect Republicans. However, that role comes into play in the general election, not the primaries. A party that talks abut federalism and limited national government should have more trust in the people to choose their representatives in the primaries. Cornyn and the NRSC have taken a circuitous route to the right decision, but at least they got there.