September 15, 2013
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

There was good news for Republicans this week in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll:

The Republican Party is gaining a public-opinion edge on several key issues ahead of the 2014 elections, as Americans question President Barack Obama’s leadership on Syria and worry about the country’s overall direction, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Republicans are now rated higher than Democrats on handling the economy and foreign policy, and the GOP’s lead has strengthened on several other issues, including dealing with the federal deficit and ensuring a strong national defense.

The danger here is not only hubris (e.g. the suicidal government-shutdown scheme), which may fritter away this advantage, but choosing their 2014 candidates unwisely, as they did in many cases in the 2008 and 2010 Senate elections.

Take the tea party-backed challenger to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). A blogger who knows the local scene writes:

Bryan Smith, who is running against Mike Simpson in the second district of Idaho, is pretty well known commodity in his home town. He is not particularly well-liked there, because he is a trial lawyer and runs a debt collection business on the side.

Smith also has some experience lobbying. He lobbied hard against efforts to pass tort reform in Idaho. Tort reform is bad news for trial lawyers and for debt collectors. . . .

This is the guy that the Club for Growth has chosen to best represent them in the coming election.

Republican voters should take notice of the flashing red light.

Example no. 2: Huffington Post reports that Republican Barry Loudermilk is looking to replace Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). Loudermilk got the endorsement of one David Barton, whom he touted as a constitutional guru. In fact, Barton is a crank:

Barton’s views on LGBT people have been especially controversial. Right Wing Watch has documented several of Barton’s incendiary ideas, including his theory that the lack of a cure for AIDS is a sign that God condemns homosexuality.

“And the Bible again, it’s right every time, and studies keep proving that and that’s why AIDS has been something they haven’t discovered a cure for or a vaccine for,” Barton said on an episode of WallBuilders Live. “Every time they just about get a vaccine discovered for it, it transmutes into something new and they have to start over again. And that goes to what God says, ‘Hey you’re going to bear in your body the consequences of this homosexual behavior.’”

Loudermilk’s judgment seems to be of the Todd Akin variety. Maybe Republicans should look elsewhere.

And finally there is tea party champ Ken Buck, who ran for U.S. Senate in Colorado in 2010 and lost. Why would the Republicans nominate someone who already was rejected by the voters? It seems there is some revisionist history being concocted to the effect that he was fine but the GOP bombed. There is a problem with this theory: It’s dead wrong.

Republicans won all the other statewide races other than governor. The GOP contenders won with 962,531, 852,858 and 866,934 votes, compared to Ken Buck’s 824,789 votes. Republicans in Colorado in 2010 also won back two U.S. House seats from the Democrats AND Republicans won back control of the state House. Everyone did just fine, except Buck.

The tea party gang would have us believe that the bad-old National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) did Buck in. In fact, in the general election, outside groups such as Crossroads and the NRSC spent a boatload of money for nothing. A Republican who saw the race close up tells Right Turn that Buck, for the general election, got $15 million between Crossroads and the NRSC, the most support the NRSC gave any Senate candidate. Buck still was beaten, losing women, for example, by double digits.

Buck might have other arguments for his nomination, but 2010 is a powerful reason that Colorado Republicans should look elsewhere.

In short, the tea party and right-wing bloggers and groups nowhere near the scene of 2016 races will tout all sorts of flawed and unprepared candidates. It is up to voters to figure out that the people who sold them on characters like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell have a rotten track record — that is, if Republican voters actually want to hold and pick up some seats.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.