A series of reports out in the latter part of this week gives the impression that the GOP’s rifts are growing ahead of the midterm elections, even as Republicans can roundly agree on the issues which may cost Democrats in 2014.
The GOP establishment’s efforts to marginalize Tea Party and libertarian-leaning Republicans within the ranks are on full display in recent headlines. As are the ways in which the party’s fringe elements are fighting back.
What’s The Tea Party?
During a Wednesday television appearance in Mississippi, Republican Senator Thad Cochran took a novel approach to defending himself against a 2014 Tea Party challenger, two-term State Senator Chris McDaniel.
The 36-year Senator said he wasn’t very worried about McDaniel’s challenge, bizarrely doubling down on a claim he made last month, “[The Tea Party] is something I don’t know a lot about.”
“I said I didn’t know much about the Tea Party, and I didn’t,” Cochran said Wednesday. “I heard…I read newspaper articles about them, and that’s about all I knew. It’s kind of like Will Rogers, you know. He said he knew what was in the papers.”
(A note to voters in Mississippi: Re-electing a Senator who claims not to have heard of a movement that has been a major political force for at least half a decade and who explains himself with Will Rogers references is probably not in your, or the Nation’s, best interest in 2014.)
California GOP Establishment, Democrats Join Forces
In California, Representative Tom McClintock, a fiscal conservative and Tea Party affiliate, is facing an attack from establishment Republicans aligning themselves with Democrats to manipulate the State’s “jungle primary” system to unseat him.
All three Democrats who were considering entering the race in California’s fourth congressional district decided not to the week before the filing deadline so a liberal Republican (Art Moore) who is backed by a former top aide to Arnold Schwarzenegger could.
McClintock told Breitbart News that his opponent was a “Manchurian candidate” and that liberal-backers “cleared the field” of Democrats so that Moore could have a chance. Rob Stutzman, a former top communications aide to Schwarzenneger, is running Moore’s campaign.
McClintock said that liberals could not win in his district with a liberal Democrat so they are running a “liberal Republican” to beat him in California’s top-two primary voting system.
Possible Primary Threat for Boehner
Many Ohio conservatives are currently cheering the efforts of schoolteacher J.D. Winteregg, who kicked off a campaign about a year ago to unseat House Speaker John Boehner in the State’s eighth district Republican primary.
“I was eight years old when he was first elected to office in the House. [For a while] he sounded like me. The more power he got, the less conservative he got – to the point where now he’s just conceding every point to the president and it’s embarrassing,” Winteregg told The Daily Caller.
“He hardly votes so we’ve basically lost our vote in Congress,” he also said.
In addition to focusing on conservative frustration with the leader, Winteregg is reaching out to Democrats who may be motivated to vote for him just to unseat Boehner.
“To Democrats I say, ‘Don’t you want to get rid of the most powerful Republican?’”
On The Presidential Front
Earlier in the week, Senator Ted Cruz’ (R) camp signaled that the lawmaker is mulling a Presidential bid. Raz Shafer, formerly a regional director for the Cruz apparatus, left a key position on the Senator’s staff to focus on running a PAC dedicated to drafting the Texas politician to run for President.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) dropped a similar hint last weekend when he hired Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker as an adviser to his political action committee RAND PAC.
Meanwhile, deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations are leading some noteworthy Republicans to publicly criticize libertarian-leaning lawmakers who are already on shaky terms with GOP voters who still embrace a hawkish worldview.
That puts Cruz and Paul in the crosshairs. Cruz, who has been seen as a Paul ally on a number of issues, launched an offensive criticizing the Kentucky Senator’s foreign policy earlier in the month.
Cruz has since moved beyond foreign policy and attempted to distance himself from Paul on other issues, particularly the libertarian-leaning Kentuckian’s laissez-faire view on social governance.
“Look, I am a conservative. I’m a fiscal conservative. I’m a social conservative. I think we’ve seen that in order for the Republican Party to succeed, we need to be a big tent. … There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for life. I don’t agree with that. There are some who say the Republican Party should no longer stand for traditional marriage. I don’t agree with them, either.” Cruz told The Des Moines Register during a trip to Iowa (hint) Tuesday.
In an interview with Time Magazine Thursday, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum hinted that he’s starching his sweater vest collection ahead of election 2016.
And, veering back to potential Presidential contenders using the situation in Ukraine to score a couple of “tough on foreign policy” headlines, Santorum lobbed some criticism of his own in Paul’s direction.
“You’ve seen me out there taking on the Paul faction. I did during the campaign. I took on Ron Paul at debate after debate on Iran, on Pakistan,” he said. “I see the Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party for what it is: allied with Barack Obama’s foreign policy. I think that’s a very serious threat to our own security.”
It looks like it’s going to be a long couple of years for GOP voters.