So Thad Cochran rebuffed Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel last night. Coming after the overthrow of big business Republican Eric Cantor, this will require another rapid revision in the Tea-Party-versus-GOP-establishment narrative.
But the daily vicissitudes in that ongoing story are beside the point. The bigger story is that on many key issues, the business community is getting nothing for its investment in the GOP establishment’s picks. The GOP is letting Tea Party predilections and preoccupations set the party’s agenda — at the direct expense of the business community’s priorities.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has vowed a major effort to defeat Tea Party candidates and invested $100,000 in Cochran’s victory. A Chamber strategist exults that the Mississippi outcome was a win for “economic growth and governing.” But the GOP is not acting on the policies the Chamber and business community want to promote “economic growth and governing.”
John Boehner and new House leader Kevin McCarthy are refusing to support reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a key priority of business leaders who see it as good for the economy, because Tea Party conservatives have made it a litmus test of whether the GOP is on the side of Big Government “crony capitalism.”
It’s unlikely House GOP opposition to the Ex-Im Bank will lead to a government shutdown, but that possibility cannot be ruled out entirely. Last fall’s government shutdown, of course, was a symbol for the business community of the perils of Tea Party influence over the GOP. Last fall also showed GOP leaders perfectly willing to carry Tea-Party-encouraged debt limit brinksmanship to dangerous lengths.
Then there’s the Highway Trust Fund. If it becomes insolvent, it could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and put many infrastructure projects on hold. The Chamber of Commerce has warned against this outcome, in keeping with business leaders’ general embrace of more investments in infrastructure. But GOP leaders’ ability to come up with a way to pay for this is already constrained by Tea Party hostility to government.
Most glaring of all: Immigration reform. This week, one year will have gone by since the Senate passed a comprehensive bipartisan reform compromise. Yet if anything, House Republicans have moved further to the right on the issue. Darrell Issa is nonsensically coming out for the deportation of DREAMers in response to the current border crisis, and the general GOP posture is that this crisis makes reform less likely, when it should make it more urgent. This is as clear a case as you could want in which GOP leaders are prioritizing the demands of right-wing anti-amnesty warriors over those of other major GOP constituencies who want reform now, including the business community, who sees it as key to growing the economy.
As Brian Beutler recently noted, GOP leaders are selling the business community a bill of goods on immigration. It goes well beyond that, and this is just as true after last night’s supposed vanquishing of the Tea Party in Mississippi.
* COCHRAN HANGS ON IN MISSISSIPPI: Multiple-term Senator Thad Cochran squeaked out a victory over Tea Partyer Chris McDaniel in yesterday’s GOP primary runoff in Mississippi, coming in with 50.9 percent to 49.1 with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Had McDaniel won, strong Dem recruit Travis Childers would have meant Dems had three outside chances at a surprise pickup (including Kentucky and Georgia), any one of which would have put a GOP majority out of reach. Now Dems have just two. Make no mistake, Republicans dodged a bullet here.
* BUT TEA PARTY RAGE IS RUNNING HIGH: However, the flip side of the story is that Tea Party anger at the establishment is likely to remain on full boil. Last night, after African Americans voting helped put Cochran over the top, McDaniel railed against “voting irregularities” and “liberal Democrats” who helped Cochran win, and refused to concede, while we saw this from his supporters:
They cheered his defiance and chanted “Write Chris In!” as he took the stage and calling out “It’s not over Chris” and “We’re not going with Thad.” McDaniel supporters quickly moved to consider legal challenges based on reported voting irregularities.
Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity last night suggested it might be time for conservatives to go third party.
* TWEET OF THE NIGHT, MISSISSIPPI RUNOFF EDITION: Matt Lewis offers a theory on the African Americans who helped put Cochran’s win over the top:
If Cochran was working to turn out Dems, might he not have been aided by news of McDaniel’s backers bringing in “poll watchers”?
If so, whoops.
* TERRIBLE ECONOMIC NEWS: Ugh:
The U.S. economy contracted at a much steeper pace than previously estimated in the first quarter, but there are indications that growth has since rebounded strongly. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday gross domestic product fell at a 2.9 percent annual rate, the economy’s worst performance in five years, instead of the 1.0 percent pace it had reported last month.
Regular reminder: Republicans used to support infrastructure spending to boost the economy, before Obama was president.
* WHY THE TEA PARTY REMAINS RELEVANT: A new New York Times poll finds support for the Tea Party has dropped to all of 21 percent, but Allison Kopicki ferrets out the nugget that matters most:
Eighty-one percent of voters who support the Tea Party say they will definitely vote in the 2014 election, compared with 67 percent of voters who don’t support the Tea Party…Republican Tea Party voters are 15 points more likely to say they are very or somewhat enthusiastic about voting in this November’s elections for Congress than non-Tea Party Republican voters.
Meanwhile many House Republicans are cossetted away in districts insulated from broader currents of national demographic trends, and it’s clear why the GOP’s agenda remain so in thrall to Tea Party priorities.
* AND CHILDREN DYING IN GUNFIRE: Sam Stein reports:
At least 100 children were unintentionally killed by gunfire in the year following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a new study from a leading gun control group shows…Part of the problem, Everytown argues, is poor education about the dangers of firearms and how to safely store them. The group advocates “well-tailored child safety” laws, including those “imposing criminal liability” for irresponsible gun storage.
Nah. The real answer is more guns for the good guys.