Behind the ‘Not One Red Cent’ Rebellion
posted at 4:49 pm on May 16, 2009 by The Other McCain
We were standing outside the Continental Lounge in Rosslyn, Va., while the young Republican operative explained it to me.
“All they care about is getting their chairmanships back, and they don’t care how they get there,” said the operative. “They don’t want to spend any money, so they were looking for a self-funder.”
“They” are Republican senators, and what my friend was explaining was the otherwise inexplicable decision of the National Republican Senatorial Committee to endorse Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race — 15 months before the primary!
As soon as this news hit the Internet on Tuesday, the outright stupidity of the NRSC and its chairman, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, became the No. 1 topic of conversation among conservative activists, including the journalists, bloggers and GOP operatives who gathered for Thursday night’s cocktail party at the Continental in Rosslyn, just across the Potomac River from Georgetown.
As Michael Bates says, we’ve seen this blunder before: In 2004, the NRSC backed Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter against conservative challenger Pat Toomey and, in 2006, the NRSC backed Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee against conservative challenger Steve Laffey. The pattern is clear: The national committee, controlled by the party elite, always backs the supposedly “safe” moderate candidate against the insurgent supported by the conservative grassroots. And then the “safe” moderate loses in November. (Come to think of it, this is pretty much what happened with Crazy Cousin John last year.)
But this latest move — well, it was a screw-up too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the spark that ignited a grassroots inferno. The Florida contest is not the case of the NRSC defending a Republican incumbent. Republican Sen. Mel Martinez is retiring, and it’s an open seat, a contest for which young conservative Marco Rubio has spent months organizing his campaign. For Cornyn and the NRSC to come bigfooting into this race more than a year before the 2010 primary was simply unprecedented.
“Treacherous b*st*rds!” I said, when I learned of the NRSC’s endorsement of Crist. Javier Manjarres of the Florida-based Conservative Republican Alliance, who had been promoting Rubio’s candidacy, was stunned by the news:
“In case the NRSC forgot, it was Governor Crist that openly supported the Obama ‘stimulus’ plan, and gave the plan political cover here in Florida. . . . Why does the NRSC issue an endorsement without even waiting to find out where the respective candidates stand on the issues?”
John Hawkins of Right Wing News called for Cornyn’s resignation, and Dan McLaughlin of Red State explained why Crist’s entry into the Senate campaign was a strategic blunder for the GOP. Then Red State founder Erick Erickson weighed in with a post titled, “Not One Dime to the NRSC.”
Well, after talking to some of my conservative friends Thursday night, it occurred to me that “not one dime” might be about nine cents too much.