Not the Glory Days for Club for Growth

Club for Growth, the radically anti-tax and anti-government organization, has often targeted Republican incumbents it deems insufficiently devoted to its free-market fundamentalism. But Politico points out that its endorsement may not be such a great thing for candidates these days.

It couldn’t have been a nicer Saturday for Democrat Frank Kratovil, up on stage playing blues guitar for an oyster-slurping, beer-drinking crowd on the water in Queen Anne’s County, Md.

 When he’s done with his set, reporters from CQ, Politico and the New Republic are waiting to talk with the man who may be the next member of Congress from Maryland’s 1st District.

This isn’t what the Club for Growth had in mind.

Back in February, the conservative PAC helped knock off moderate Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the GOP primary here, in the hopes of installing a more conservative Republican in his place.

But it may not work out that way. With less than a month to go before Election Day, Kratovil is running neck and neck with the Club for Growth-backed GOP nominee, Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris, in a district that’s about as red as they come.

And with voters worried about their retirement accounts and suddenly suspicious of the free-market economics espoused by the Club for Growth, Kratovil is using the Club for Growth’s support of Harris as a way to bludgeon him.

 “We need to stop listening to those people, like my opponent and his million-dollar backers, the Club for Growth, who believe in no regulation,” Kratovil says.

For Club for Growth-backed candidates across the country, this is sounding like a familiar story.

Politico reports that Rep. Tim Walberg, elected in 2006 after defeating moderate GOPer Joe Schwarz in a Club for Growth backed primary challenge, is now seeing the Club’s backing used as a major line of attack from his opponent. And it’s forcing the GOP to spend money to defend what were once considered safe seats:

Still, the club’s investment in GOP efforts may end up costing the party more than it saves it, forcing the National Republican Congressional Committee to spend money in what might have been forget-about-’em races if more moderate Republicans were on the ballot.

It seems likely that Grover Norquist’s expressed desire to shrink government to the size that he could “drown it in the bathtub” doesn’t resonate too well with voters who see the financial meltdown draining their retirement plans as the result of a little too much “magic of the marketplace” and not enough oversight or regulation.

In addition . the group played a key role in funding conservative Rep. Steve Pearce in his New Mexico Senate primary victory against Rep. Heather Wilson. Wilson was viewed as the more electable Republican against Democrat Tom Udall; with Pearce as the nominee, the GOP has written off the seat.