Grassroots groups still battling for the heart of the Republican Party
posted at 3:45 pm on March 21, 2012 by Tina Korbe
In his endorsement of Mitt Romney today, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made it perfectly clear that he thinks now is the time for all Republicans everywhere to fall in line, but at least one major Tea Party group is still not ready to accept Romney as the all-but-inevitable nominee:
The tea-party-aligned organization FreedomWorks is not ready to coalesce behind Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yet, an official told The Daily Caller.
In fact, they’re still holding out hope that another Republican can still swoop in and beat him.
“We never got our natural candidate,” spokesman Adam Brandon told TheDC on Wednesday. “We’re focusing on the Senate, but watching the [Republican presidential] race to see if it heads to a brokered convention, and it looks like it might, to see if we can get someone else in.”
As Ed wrote this morning, Jeb’s endorsement essentially eliminates the possibility that he himself will emerge from a brokered convention as a last-minute White Knight nominee. Along with Mitch Daniels and a few others, Jeb Bush has been one of the most-mentioned “hopes” of those who favor calling in outside help. Now, that particular hope is gone.
It’s understandable that Bush and others would seek to reconcile themselves to Romney at this point and to urge others to do the same. Realism compels us to face the delegate math and accept that Romney might reach a majority of delegates before the convention yet — and that, if he doesn’t but he does far outpace his competitors, the justification for a brokered convention will be practically nonexistent.
Still, FreedomWorks and grassroots resistance to Romney continues to have its place in this election. It serves as a vital reminder that Romney still has to earn the votes of grassroots conservatives by proving that he will be a real alternative to Obama — not just a watered-down, slightly-less-liberal version of him who carries the added risk of setting the conservative project back if he proves to be as liberal a Republican president as the grassroots fear.
It also serves as a reminder that grassroots activists don’t have to deploy their resources on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate. In general, they’re committed first and foremost to ensuring electoral victories that will advance conservatism. Let Romney prove his presidential victory would do that and maybe they’ll go door-to-door for him. If not, they can always focus on down-ballot races that, in the long run, are just as critical as the White House.
The two top minds behind FreedomWorks ask profound questions of Republican candidates and Republican voters in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal:
Establishmentarians once more are lecturing activists and candidates—those who, in the words of Rand Paul, “actually believe in limited government and individual freedom”—on the practical limits of principles in politics. Sen. Lugar, facing a serious grass-roots challenge from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, recycles the arguments once used by Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter: “If I was not the nominee it might be lost.”
What is the point of politics anyway? Is it really about power for power’s sake? Or are we trying to fix the very real economic problems facing Americans trying to find jobs? Is it about “holding a seat”? Or about whether we can still provide better, freer futures for our children and grandchildren?
Does anyone really believe that settling for more of the same will create a Republican majority with the principles and practical skills required to replace ObamaCare with a patient-centered approach? To stop the EPA’s destruction of American energy markets? To scrap the tax code, reform our broken entitlements, and balance the budget? Can 36-year incumbents now dismantle the big government they helped build? Are we going to once again do the same thing, expecting different results?
Last night, the Illinois presidential primary seemed to suggest that Republicans are going to do the same thing they did in 2008 — nominate the guy who’s been making the rounds on the presidential circuit for more than four years. But another Illinois primary proves the grassroots are still strong — and still determined to vote for the most conservative candidate they can:
The freshman upset of a 10-term member in a key Republican Congressional primary in Illinois has given the new anti-incumbent super PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, another notch on its belt.
The super PAC had backedAdam Kinzinger against veteran Don Manzullo in the newly consolidated, banana-shaped 16th district west of Chicago.
Mr. Kinzinger was endorsed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, whose independent super PAC ran about $50,000 in radio ads touting Mr. Kinzinger. (As we note in a related Washington Wire post, Mr. Cantor’s role has alarmed other Republicans.)
But another key factor was the role played by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which showered the district with $ 211,500 in TV and radio ads, robo-calls, and mailers in the last three weeks, slamming Mr. Manzullo for voting for spending proposals backed by Democrats.
For that matter, it is also a grassroots victory of sorts that the default Republican presidential option in 2012 is significantly more conservative than was the default option in 2008.