Karl Rove writes today about Democrats’ efforts to pick their opponents in GOP primaries, in essence getting the candidate the Democratic candidate can most easily beat. “Democrats are hoping to repeat 2010 and 2012, when opportunities for GOP pickups were squandered by weak Republican candidates, such as Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Democrats and their super PACs are spending money in 2014 Republican primaries to defeat the strongest candidate in the field,” he writes. He continues, “Left unanswered, these Democratic attacks might work. But if addressed effectively, they are unlikely to prevail. GOP candidates should ask Republican primary voters if they really want [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, smear artist extraordinaire, picking their nominees.”
What is amusing about this is that right-wing groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks and the Madison Project want these very same candidates. Reid and his minions attack the most viable GOP candidates in competitive races — Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Dan Sullivan in Alaska and Bill Cassidy in Louisiana, to name just three. The game plan is the same for the right-wing groups. They’d also rather see the mainstream GOP candidates lose and their own tea party picks — no matter how eccentric, vulnerable and extreme — get the nomination.
Are the right-wing groups trying to help Reid? Well, in a roundabout way, yes. Recall that former senator Jim DeMint (who founded the Senate Conservatives Fund and now harangues “establishment” Republicans from his perch at Heritage) said he’d prefer 30 “real” conservatives in the Senate than 60 mushy ones. Well, Reid agrees. Reid and his fellow Democrats want to govern, set the agenda, block the other side’s legislation and influence the national debate. That is best achieved by keeping the GOP as a rump minority of loud and extreme voices who will be a useful foil and who will dissuade the public from ever putting Republicans in power.
It’s not that the right-wing groups love Reid; rather, they have mutually compatible aims. If Republicans are pure and aggrieved (because they are in the minority), Reid is happy and so are these groups and the hard-right blogs and talk-show hosts who back characters such as Matt Bevin, Greg Brannon, Milton Wolf and Chris McDaniel.
How do Republicans foil Reid? By supporting the candidates he is attacking, not out of contrariness, but out of an appreciation for the necessity of nominating mainstream and viable Republicans. A Senate with 60 Republicans, including many from purple or blue states who may differ with those from deep-red states on some issues? It’s the far right and Harry Reid’s collective nightmare.