For all the talk about how the GOP establishment is vanquishing Tea Party elements within the party — which is undergoing a rapid revision in the wake of Eric Cantor’s defeat — some GOP establishment candidates in top tier Senate races are very much in lockstep with what can loosely be called the Tea Party worldview.
Case in point: GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, who is running for Mark Pryor’s Senate seat in Arkansas. Cotton has been described as a uniter of the establishment and Tea Party. But Politico has a good piece today spelling out Cotton’s views: He is the lone Republican in the state’s Congressional delegation to vote against the Farm Bill, the Violence Against Women Act, and disaster aid. He supported the Republican Study Committee budget, which is to the right of the Paul Ryan blueprint.
And buried in the Politico piece is news that Cotton is also open to privatizing Social Security accounts:
When Cotton was asked whether he believed Social Security should be privatized, he responded, “I wouldn’t say that,” before advocating for gradually raising the retirement age to 70. But in response to a follow-up question about whether taxpayers should be allowed to have personalized — or privatized — Social Security accounts, Cotton said “everything needs to be on the table” to “modernize” the program and ensure it’s “available for the next generation.”
Coming soon to a TV ad in Arkansas living rooms.
The question all of this raises: Is Cotton’s view of the proper role of government too extreme even for a deep red state like Arkansas? The Pryor campaign is betting that it is.
Indeed, in a key moment that has attracted no national attention, Cotton recently voted to abolish the Economic Development Administration, a program whose mission is to promote job growth and investments in economically undeveloped areas, arguing that the program is wasteful. Pryor hit Cotton by arguing that Republicans support the program and that it had created more than 1,000 jobs in the state, blasting the right wing Congressman for voting against Arkansas and its “hardworking families,” and with the “special interests,” such as the Club for Growth, which opposes the EDA.
Pryor’s suggestion that Cotton is voting against Arkansas is another way of saying that Cotton’s opposition to sensible government investment in the local economy represents a view that is extreme in relation even to Arkansas Republican officials. It’s also worth noting that Cotton won’t say whether he supports the state’s version of the Medicaid expansion, which has also been supported by some Arkansas Republicans.
The bigger story here is the one spelled out by Stan Greenberg: At a time when Republicans seems to be betting the GOP’s future on maximizing support among working class whites, Democrats need, if anything, to redouble their efforts to reach this consistuency by addressing their economic concerns, rather than grow overly reliant on young voters, college educated whites, and minorities. As Ed Kilgore puts it: “hard-core Tea-Party-driven hostility to any positive role for government in the economy limits further gains” for Republicans among working class whites, which “represents a big opportunity for Democrats, if they seize it aggressively.”
In the Arkansas Senate race, where Pryor holds a slight lead thanks to his ability to win over voters who disapprove of Obama, this will be put to the test.
* MALIKI NOT SEEKING POLITICAL SOLUTION: Obama has insisted military actions against ISIS can only occur if Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki simultaneously pursues political reconciliation, but the New York Times reports that Maliki is spending all his time on the military side of things, and close associates say he has decided reconciliation is hopeless:
“Now there’s a war, there’s not reconciliation,” said Amir al-Khuzai, a longtime friend of Mr. Maliki’s. “With whom do we reconcile?”
It is unclear what sort of efforts at reconciliation Obama would have to see to be satisfied, but it looks as if no efforts are being made in this direction to begin with.
* LEFT GEARS UP TO BLOCK WAR IN IRAQ: Americans United For Change has released a new poll from the robo-firm Public Policy Polling that finds broad opposition to reentering Iraq, and broad disagreement with the idea that American withdrawal is to blame for current fighting:
Only 20% of Americans think that the renewed fighting in Iraq is due to the United States withdrawing troops from the country before the job was done, whereas 67% think it’s more rooted in centuries of internal conflict that was exacerbated by the US invasion during the Bush administration. Only 16% of Americans would support sending combat troops to help deal with the crisis in Iraq, compared to 74% who are opposed…a majority of Americans do support…a major diplomatic initiative aimed at mobilizing the international community to stabilize the situation there (52/30).
The poll’s release is a sign lefty groups are gearing up to oppose any re-engagement, which means winning the argument with Republicans such as John McCain over not just what to do now, but over the broader meaning and legacy of the Iraq War.
* REPUBLICANS GO QUIET ON GAY RIGHTS: Yesterday it was announced that Obama will sign an Executive Order barring federal contractors from discriminating in hiring based on sexual orientation, and now Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is calling for the new EO to have exemptions for religious groups, such as churches, religions and schools, just as the Employment Non Discrimination Act (which House Republicans have stalled) does. The gay rights group Get Equal opposes the move, but the White House has yet to comment.
The big story here, however, may prove to be just how little in the way of a GOP backlash we see in response to the new EO.
* OBAMA TESTS LIMITS OF EXECUTIVE POWER: Juliet Eilperin scoops:
President Obama on Tuesday will announce his intent to make a broad swath of the central Pacific Ocean off-limits to fishing, energy exploration and other activities, according to senior White House officials. The proposal, slated to go into effect later this year after a comment period, could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected.
It’s another example of Obama’s second-term efforts to test the limits of executive power in protecting the environment, and that willingness has implications for the prospects of success for broader efforts to set the country on a saner environmental path without any cooperation from Congress.
* THE LIMITS OF TEA PARTY ‘POPULISM’: Michael Gerson has a good column pointing out that for all the talk about the ascendancy of “Tea Party populism” in the victory of David Brat, opposing immigration reform will require a level of GOP support among white voters that will prove increasingly unrealistic in national elections:
There is a reason Sen. Marco Rubio and House Speaker John Boehner have sometimes prioritized immigration reform in ways that seemed divisive within the conference — because they think that the Republican future depends on overcoming a durable impression of suspicion toward new Americans. And they are correct. Even if immigration reform is not everyone’s top priority in the polls, embracing it would be a signal that Republicans recognize, accept, even welcome that the face of America is changing. Currently, that face often registers disdain.
Indeed, the GOP position on immigration, for all practical purposes, is that the only acceptable response to our immigration crisis is maximum deportations. Boehner could change this tomorrow.
* THE LIMITS OF TEA PARTY ‘POPULISM,’ CONTINUED: Chris Moody with the reality check for those who think the ouster of Eric Cantor (who is likely to be replaced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy) will strike a great blow to crony capitalism:
Campaign finance disclosures show that donations to McCarthy, both through his campaign and his leadership PAC, come from many of the same industries as did donations to Cantor. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, five industries — securities and investment, real estate, pharmaceuticals, health professionals, and insurance — ranked as the top five sources of campaign donations for both men, and in the same order.
And not only that, McCarthy is more supportive of “amnesty” than Cantor ever was!
* WHAT HAS BECOME OF THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Dana Milbank, on a Heritage panel about #Benghazi:
What began as a session purportedly about “unanswered questions” surrounding the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering.
Read to the end.
* AND ON OBAMACARE, IT’S ALWAYS OCTOBER OF 2013: Glenn Kessler takes apart a new ad from Rove’s Crossroads that slams Senator Kay Hagan by arguing that because of Obamacare, “thousands of North Carolinians were told their policies were canceled.” As Kessler notes, the Obama administration deferred these cancellations, and nearly twice as many signed up for Obamacare: “it’s especially absurd to bring this up now that the law has met its enrollment targets.”
For Republicans, it forever remains October of 2013, that Glorious Moment of Obamacare Reckoning that continues to exert a powerful emotional full, even though it has long since been left behind by events.