I think last night should have made it obvious that the GOP/Tea Party needs to consider both ideological purity and electability when making these decisions. My reaction to each suggestion below:
John Barasso (WY) No opinion, not familiar with his voting record.
Scott Brown (MA) Would be a mistake
Bob Corker (TN) Probably doable
John Ensign (NV) Questionable given the dearth of strong candidates against Reid.
Orrin Hatch (UT) Absolutely
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) Absolutely
Jon Kyl (AZ) Questionable
Richard Lugar (IN) Very questionable. Indiana is not as red as it once was and Lugar is not easily vilified.
Olympia Snowe (ME) Would be a mistake.
Roger Wicker (MS) Not really familiar with Wicker’s voting record but a good state to demand a real conservative.
The Tea Party has a choice to make. It can either continue to grow and mature into a potent and long term political force or it can impersonate a bull in a china shop every two years with results that are all over the place.
All Republicans need to study last night’s results and LEARN from them. Tea Party candidates did great in some places and lousy in others. But the same can be said for the “regular” GOP candidates. A mixed bag is what just about every election brings.
In hindsight and off the top of my head here are some thoughts on the various races:
1. Marco Rubio was a grand slam home run but….he had years of political experience and political success behind him. He was not plucked from obscurity and thrown out on center stage. The prospect of Senator Charlie Crist was never pleasant to contemplate. While this was a high risk move it also had tremendous upside that made it on balance a good bet. (Yes, I’m mixing my metaphors a bit.)
2. Rand Paul, 3 run homer. While I don’t agree with some of his positions on the use of the military, he is outstanding on fiscal and individual liberty issues, and he brings a pedigree of sticking to ones guns and not wilting under pressure. His primary opponent was nothing to get excited about and Kentucky is reasonably red, especially this year.
3. Mike Lee , 2 run homer. Here the GOP primary was essentially the general election so moving right and attempting to retire Bennett was a great example of a high value target with excellent chances of success and little or no possible downside.
4. Nikki Haley, home run. I’d rank this one higher except I think this is one where more vetting would have been in order. However it worked out, and she now has a chance to be a major player in the GOP for a long time.
5. Ken Buck, triple. The counting is still ongoing so Buck may well lose but even so I think his nomination made sense given all the factors. I don’t think he ran a particularly good campaign but that happens sometimes to even the best candidates.
5. Christine O’Donnell, double. This is the single instance this cycle where I feel like the Tea Party made the right decision in nominating an almost sure loser. The idea of Mike Castle being put in the position James Jeffords was once in is just too horrifying to contemplate. Castle was old and too liberal and no sure bet to win anyway. O’Donnell (who I personally am quite drawn too) had a number of well documented flaws but she served an important purpose in this election. Her candidacy served as a very clear message of principle to other “blue state” Republicans who might smugly think they are safe from challenge. Between O’Donnell’s primary win and Arlen Spector’s primary loss, RINOs now have a much different calculation to make when contemplating apostasy.
6. Joe Miller, bloop single. Of all the candidates this cycle Miller may be my greatest disappointment. He had such a glistening resume but he really was a terrible candidate. Way too prickly, angry, and glowering. His ideas would have made a great addition to the U.S. Senate but losing to a write-in as it appears he has is a damning sign of his great short-comings.
7. Sharron Angle, strike out. Never ever in 100 years should the GOP have put itself in the position of a choice between Angle, Lowden, and Tarkanian to oppose the buffoon Harry Reid. All parts of the Republican Party screwed up here as none of the these candidates were of the caliber needed to really clobber Reid. Angle is right on the issues but didn’t seem to understand that she was now on the national stage and should not just say whatever popped into her head. This is a good place to talk about candidate recruitment. It seems clear to me that one of the jobs of the national Republican Committees (Senate & House) is to recruit good candidates. However those guys have GOT to stop recruiting in a vacuum. The grassroots MUST be included. By the same token the grassroots need to be politically realistic enough to realize that sometimes getting the perfect ideological candidate is not possible. Imagine that you are John Q. Businessman in Wyoming and you are approached by the NRSC to run for the Senate. At this point you have to realize that being endorsed by the NRSC is almost akin to the kiss of death. Yet who else, what other entity, can and will do the recruitment and vetting needed to insure we run qualified, electable, and ready for prime time candidates? The Tea Party / Grassroots and the Establishment republicans absolutely MUST get on the same page and cooperate to at least some degree in this area.
8. Carl Paladino, foul tip off the shin. Gimme a break. This guy should never have gotten the GOP nomination for anything anywhere. All he did was make Republicans look ridiculous. In states like New York we need a serious enough party structure that in years like 2010 we have a legitimate shot at winning or at least forcing the Democrats to expend extra effort. All three state wide races in New York were a joke and that is unfortunate.