Green Room

‘Fighting for the Soul of the GOP’

posted at 3:48 am on May 23, 2009 by

“It’s insane,” one of my Texas Republican sources said, discussing the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 Florida Senate race. “It absolutely makes no sense at all. . . . What’s the point of even having a primary?”

The NRSC’s decision was denounced by several local GOP leaders in Florida and sparked the nationwide Not One Red Cent revolt. By Wednesday night, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer had been forced to back down from his own premature endorsement of Crist.

A source in Orlando tells me that Greer and Crist are longtime buddies, so this smug little arrangement — the state party chairman trying to guarantee the Senate nomination for his friend the governor — was typical Bush-era cronyism. (“Heck of a job, Brownie!”)

The Florida Republican elite’s manipulative approach to politics has long been resented by the state’s GOP rank-and-file. Miami conservative activist Javier Manjarres, who was dismayed last year by the Republican leadership’s lack of support for FL-22 congressional candidate Lt. Col. Allen West, formed the Conservative Republican Alliance to fight back. Manjarres has been a relentless critic of Greer, and recently endorsed Crist’s Senate rival, Marco Rubio. Referring to Crist’s endorsement of Obama’s stimulus bill, Majarres said:

When you support unprincipled politicians like Governor Crist, you wind up with embarrassing episodes like this

Exactly. Other embarrassing consequences of arrogant, unprincipled Republican elitism include Bozo the VP’s new BFF, Arlen Specter (for whom the NRSC was raising campaign cash right up until the day Specter admitted what conservatives have always known: Arlen is a Democrat.)

Speaking of cronyism among unprincipled politicians, remember that it was Crist’s endorsement that helped John McCain win the crucial Florida primary? And now The Loser has returned the favor by endorsing Crist.

The attempt to lock up the Senate primary for Crist has sparked open conflict between Florida RNC member Sharon Day and Greer. It’s also brought the Club For Growth into the Florida Senate race. Tallahassee political columnist Paul Flemming reports that at least one Republican in the state understands the national ramifications:

Jason Steele, chairman of the Brevard County Republican Executive Committee . . . says he’s fighting for the soul of the GOP.
This is much more than a parochial tussle among party faithful on the Space Coast.
The difference is at the heart of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 16 months away, between Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio. Rubio’s running hard to the right of Crist’s moderate populism. . . .
A Steele-sponsored motion to demand the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Party of Florida stay out of the primary and let voters decide on Aug. 24, 2010 passed resoundingly.
“We’re being whipped across this state in ways that you cannot believe and if we’re not careful we’ll go back to pre-1996 Florida,” Steele said of the time when Democrats ran the show. “We have a major problem with the Republican Party. That problem is we’ve lost our way.”
Steele sent the motion approved by the Brevard club to all 67 others in the state asking them to join the fun. So far, at least 10 have approved it and more are on the way, Steele said.

Crist’s endorsement of McCain last year clinched the Florida primary, which ensured McCain won the GOP nomination and — because John McCain is a RINO loser — in November, Obama won Florida. Now, the NRSC and McCain have endorsed Crist for the 2010 Senate race, 15 months ahead of the primary. Erick Erickson of Red State says it’s time for the grassroots to put up or shut up:

Here’s the deal: the NRSC is probably not going to spend a penny on Crist in the primary. . . .
The NRSC endorsement has everything to do with making Rubio not viable by cutting off his access to money.
The only way to really combat the endorsement is to flood Marco Rubio with contributions to make him viable.

Which brings us back to Texas, home state of Republican Sen. John Cornyn. Remember the fight over the stimulus bill? Remember the key vote where Cornyn had a “prior committment” with wealthy donors in New York City? That caused Mike Wellman to remark: “I am from Texas. I was already angry at Cornyn’s vote on the Treasury Secretary. I will not vote for him again.”

Now as NRSC chairman, Cornyn supports Charlie Crist in Florida, putting the knife in Marco Rubio’s back. This prompts the question: “Are Texans OK with this?”

Does Texas GOP chairwoman Tina Benkiser (512-477-9821 ) approve? What about Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry (512-478-3276)? Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (214-361-3500)? Texas RNC members Bill Crocker (512-478-5611) and Cathie Adams (972-523-8551)?

One would think that Texas Republicans might want to ascertain, with all the charm and courtesy for which Texans are famous, whether the Lone Star state’s GOP officials support Cornyn’s decision to have the NRSC decide the Florida Senate primary in favor of Charlie Crist. To quote Erick Erickson again:

Not only did Crist attack fellow Republicans for opposing Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, but Obama also called Crist his “favorite Republican.”

By the way, the RNC recently hired Todd Herman as its New Media Director, and Herman complains that only 40% of Republicans engage in online activism. Hey, Todd, we’re doing what we can . . .

UPDATE: Two Florida newspapers, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Fort Myers News-Press, weigh in with editorials criticizing the NRSC’s intervention. Pat Austin writes:

The danger of the NRSC endorsement is that it removes the Florida voters from their own primary. . . . Let Floridians pick their own candidate.

And Florida law student Tommy Jardon has started a pro-Rubio blog called Run Marco Run.

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Comments

If only Barack would nominate Crist for something.. Ambassador to Timbuktu or Greenland..

DaveC on May 23, 2009 at 8:01 AM

The only way to really combat the endorsement is to flood Marco Rubio with contributions to make him viable.

Well, here I go…Who will join me..?

ujorge on May 23, 2009 at 8:37 AM

I supported and contributed for Cornyn’s 2008 re-election.   Then Cornyn voted for the 2008 Bush bailout.   It was then that I realised that Cornyn was in Bush’s pocket and wrote Sen. Cornyn that I considered his vote unprincipled and as a previous supporter could thus NOT vote for his 2008 re-election (voted for Libetarian first time evah!).   Everything Cornyn has done since re-election has done nothing but reaffirm my disappointment in Cornyn’s performance.   I can only guess that Cornyn is still taking his marching orders from the Bush crowd?   Now that’s a non-starter!
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I am a Texan, but I’m sending a check to ‘Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate’ this weekend.   Screw the NRSC!

martywd on May 23, 2009 at 12:34 PM

The battle is engaged on many levels. Who do we want as GOP standardbearers? My opinion is that we need officials who support the platform and reach out to the base, attracting moderates with logic and conviction.

If you chase after the squishy center of the electorate, it will slip through your fingers like sand. If you build on your base, you can construct a campaign which is principled and attractive.

cs89 on May 23, 2009 at 9:29 PM