Cornyn to Senate Republicans: Instead of primarying the candidates I recruit, come to me with your concerns

Does this qualify as unfair criticism of Jim DeMint? Much depends on the answer, you know.

Sen. John Cornyn said during a closed-door meeting Tuesday that he expects colleagues to bring their concerns to him about candidates he recruits as National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman — and not to help mount challenges against them, Republicans familiar with the meeting said Thursday.

Although not mentioned by name, the Republicans said the Texas lawmaker’s speech was clearly intended for the ears of Sen. Jim DeMint…

While DeMint is still expected to actively support conservative candidates in primaries for open seats or seats held by Democrats, he said Thursday that he has agreed not to “plan” to support primary challengers looking to oust any of his colleagues.

“I have no plans to oppose incumbent Republicans in primaries, but I do plan to play an active role in primaries where there is a Democrat incumbent or an open seat. It’s important that principled candidates like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are not overlooked by our party,” DeMint said.

This new arrangement can work for both of them, I think. For Cornyn, it’s an early warning system that a candidate he’s handpicked for a seat might encounter trouble in the primary. If DeMint had given him a heads up far enough in advance, they might have found a compromise candidate in Delaware superior to both awful RINO Mike Castle and awful “true conservative” Christine O’Donnell. For DeMint, theoretically it gives him a bit more sway over NRSC endorsements plus some political cover if he and Cornyn end up disagreeing on a candidate and he decides to support someone else. “I tried to be a good soldier and warn him that the base wouldn’t support his pick,” he’ll say of Cornyn, “but he didn’t listen, so I have no choice.”

And of course, to some extent, this problem will take care of itself. Cornyn will surely consider “true conservative” candidates more carefully next cycle, if only because he knows primary challenges are likely under certain circumstances even without DeMint stirring anyone up. He’s basically obliged to support Snowe in Maine because she’s already an incumbent senator, but when it comes to centrist types from other levels of government like Charlie Crist — whom the NRSC endorsed before Rubio could even take a breath, to its eternal shame — he’ll tread very, very lightly. In fact, I wonder if he and DeMint will reach some sort of deal about that. No challenges to sitting senators like Snowe, Hatch, and Brown in exchange for increased input from the base in recruiting Republican challengers for the many, many seats Democrats have to defend. That’s basically what DeMint is suggesting in the quoted bit above. Could work.