The New York Times reports that moderate Republicans are concerned about the GOP’s rightward lurch and worried that it is not only polarizing the party but harming their chances of winning re-election.
Leading moderates say Republicans concentrated on social wedge issues like same-sex marriage while pressing national security almost to the exclusion of popular wage and health policies that could have helped endangered Republicans in the Northeast and the Midwest.
Of course, those pushing the GOP ever rightward are not particularly concerned
Conservatives say the overall party message was developed to draw the most loyal voters to the polls by emphasizing bedrock principles. The leader of one group that backed conservative candidates in Republican primaries, angering the moderate wing, said some moderates were in trouble simply because they strayed too far, alienating Republicans without attracting Democrats.
“We have people who are certainly well left of the center of the Republican conference on all issues, including economic and growth issues,” said the leader, Pat Toomey, a former congressman from Pennsylvania who heads the Club for Growth. “I’m not hoping they lose. But if they do, I think we will be able to recapture those seats with pro-growth candidates who distance themselves from Democrats.”
When members of the conservative Club for Growth opened their checkbooks to back candidates in Republican primaries for open House seats in Colorado and Idaho, it seemed a pretty good bet that their choices would cruise into Congress if they won the preliminary rounds.
Less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, the Club for Growth’s choices in Colorado and Idaho are looking less like surefire investments. The group’s 36,000 members and political action committee have spent about $700,000 on the Idaho race and about $310,000 in the Colorado district.
In Colorado, Republican candidate Doug Lamborn, a 12-year veteran of the state Senate, has been hurt by lingering divisions from a bitter six-way primary in August. Hefley, who has represented the district 20 years, called Lamborn’s campaign “sleazy and dishonest” and has refused to endorse him.
In Idaho, it’s been five months since Republican Bill Sali won a divisive six-candidate primary, but time has not healed rifts within the party, some of them dating to Sali’s 16-year tenure in the Legislature. The Idaho Statesman endorsed Democrat Larry Grant, saying Sali spent his legislative career “fixated on hot-button issues such as abortion, alienating fellow Republicans.”
After Sali discussed a supposed link between abortions and breast cancer early this year, Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, a Republican, called him “an absolute idiot” who “doesn’t have an ounce of empathy.” Former GOP speaker Mike Simpson, now in the U.S. House, once threatened to throw Sali from a second-floor window.
This rightward push is clearly having an impact and turning off moderates – including many who are now turning away from the GOP even in places like Kansas. But CFG is pushing ahead, spending millions of dollars in support of its approved far-right candidates.
If Club for Growth gets its way, the moderate Republicans will soon find themselves all but extinct and replaced by a raft of “pro-growth candidates who distance themselves from Democrats” primarily by being “absolute idiots” who run “sleazy and dishonest” campaigns.