In this election cycle, voters have had to ask themselves on several occasions whether they want a Senate with 30 Jim DeMints or 51 Republicans of varied approaches that can get things accomplished. We didn’t think that the Senate Republican Caucus would question whether they would prefer 30 Lindsey Grahams or 51 seats with a substantial number of conservatives. The Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong detects something less than enthusiasm from the current Senate Republican leadership in the surging fortunes of conservative candidates backed by the Tea Party:
Many of the conservative firebrands in the group are affiliated with the Tea Party. They’re all outsiders, many of whom defeated the GOP establishment candidate in their primary elections. Let’s just say it won’t be sleepy in the Senate come 2011.
“The GOP Senate caucus will be the most conservative since at least World War II,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
For conservatives, that sounds pretty good. Some imagine the strengthened numbers of conservatives will form a pivotal block that will move the entire body to the right.
“That’d be good for the Party, more DeMints, more Coburns,” said one conservative GOP operative to The Daily Caller.
But for Republican moderates, the Rand Pauls and Sharron Angles of the world are disconcerting. Some express fear that what they perceive as the candidates’ “radical” views will prove a political liability for the Republican Party.
I’m a little skeptical of this report, but mainly in scope. Sherwood Boehlert hardly speaks for Republican leadership, and for good reason. Strong quotes him as calling Sharron Angle “crazy with her claims,” just the kind of helpful quote that will help Harry Reid in his quest to remain in control of his own seat and the Senate in 2011. Unless the rest of the Republican leadership likes operating in the minority, Boehlert speaks for a caucus of one, and in the wrong chamber of Congress regarding this election.
However, it’s probably accurate to say that the conservative surge has current GOP leadership in the Senate a tad nervous. Two of Mitch McConnell’s key allies in leadership, Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, just got forcibly retired in their primaries by Tea Party candidates. McConnell will almost certainly keep his leadership position in the next session of Congress, but his caucus will have changed considerably. He will have to consult more with Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn on the agenda and the policies than before, and he won’t have many colleagues remaining in the mold of his previous allies.
As it should be, too. If Republicans gain majorities from this election in either or both chambers of Congress, it will give them a mandate for change unlike anything seen in many years, given the radical shift to the Left during the last two sessions of Congress. If they fail to realize that and refuse to make significant cuts in spending and in the size of government, then Republicans will get shown the door almost as quickly as Democrats did.