Beltway Republicans planning to intervene more in GOP primaries

posted at 6:55 pm on January 4, 2013 by Allahpundit

I remember when the NRSC took such intense heat for endorsing Charlie Crist in the primary over Rubio that then-chair John Cornyn vowed to stay out of primaries in the future. Three years and several Sharron Angles/Christine O’Donnells/Todd Akins later, the tune has changed among the broader Republican establishment. Question for readers: Is this worthy of automatic opposition on “damn these establishment RINOs” grounds or is it more of a wait-and-see thing? My sense from the comments here after Akin blew up over his rape remarks was that even a lot of grassroots conservatives wished he’d been torpedoed in the primary by a more electable candidate. Maybe that buys moderates a tiny bit of leeway among the base to push more “electable” candidates. At least until they go and back another Crist.

High-profile Senate Republicans are going to try to pre-empt bloody primaries with aggressive, early recruitment and support — effectively trying to clear fields…

Further, top Senate Republicans have made clear to outside groups that they’d like the third parties to not exist simply as entities that air attack ads against Democrats in general elections but to play a more hands-on role in GOP primaries…

Translation into non-Senate speak: The big-money establishment Republican super PACs like American Crossroads need to serve as a counterbalance in primaries to conservative outfits such as Club for Growth and former Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund…

“To be effective, you have to go well before the primary and identify well-qualified candidates using a number of criteria,” said one source familiar with Crossroads’s thinking. “It’s not who’s more or less conservative, but putting together a more discriminating evaluation of candidates.”…

“When a center-right Republican is in a primary and is being targeted by some group as a RINO, we’re going to make sure we have their back,” said LaTourette. “Not just with speeches and press releases but with money.”

Better recruitment would sound wonderful if not for the fact that the establishment’s talent evaluators decided that this soulless careerist was a worthier candidate than Marco Rubio, a guy who’s already being touted as a potential Republican presidential nominee in 2016. Is there any situation where American Crossroads would endorse a more impressive, more conservative longshot over an ostensibly more “electable” centrist (especially a centrist incumbent)? My agita here isn’t over Steve LaTourette’s RINO Super PAC wading into a primary to try to torpedo a conservative, it’s the fear that it’ll wade in to torpedo impressive conservatives like Mike Lee or Ron Johnson or Pat Toomey or Ted Cruz or any of the other credible right-wing candidates who’ve been elected since 2010. Whom do you trust, among either the establishment or the grassroots, to consistently reliably discern “worthy” candidates from unworthy ones?

At the very least, this’ll be a fun experiment in seeing how far Super PAC money goes. In most cases, being opposed by Crossroads or the NRSC or whoever will be a badge of honor and mark of credibility for a tea-party upstart; will that mean doom for the establishment candidate on election day or can the ad blitz on his behalf buy the primary for Joe Beltway? And won’t this ultimately mean more right-wing dollars overall being spent on Republican primaries than on general elections? That’s safe in a red state, not so much in a purple one.

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