"Moderate" Senate Republicans See the Glass as Three-Hundredths Empty

In the aftermath of the greatest electoral power shift since 1932, at least one anonymous Republican senator – and a few others who probably should be anonymous – have decided the first public sentiment worth expressing is how annoyed they are about losing Delaware. This is doubtless a preview of the thoughtful, steady hand at the tiller they plan to apply in guiding the new arrivals towards moderation and pragmatism next year.

(Full article: “GOP senators fight over failure” here.)

Significantly the good senators chose to vent their collective spleens to Politico, that bastion of down-the-middle reportage that has recently graced its pages with headlines like Sarah Palin is wreaking havoc on the campaign trail, GOP sources say, Next for GOP leaders: Stopping Sarah Palin, Joe Miller race now a referendum on Sarah Palin and my personal favorite Sarah Palin the biggest beneficiary of her own ‘Palin effect’ on midterm elections. (Someone raise their hand if they spot a leitmotif here.)

When not fixated on Palin (I counted eleven posts in the last week, but then again nothing much else has been going on) Politico maintains a constant vigil on the Tea Party, which it seems to regard on evenly numbered days as an inconsequential tick on the behind of the body politic and on odd days as the end of the world as we know it.

In the former category we find recent offerings like Obama vs. tea party: Think FDR vs. Huey Long and The long view of the tea party, which take the highly original tack of leveraging a false analogy to the populist movements of the 1930’s to arrive at manifestly dishonest conclusions about the Tea Party movement today, mostly in support of the “we’ve seen it all before, this too shall pass” argument.

It doesn’t matter that Huey Long and Father Coughlin were to the left of Roosevelt and their movements agitated for bigger government not less, as long as you can muddle through to a conclusion like the one below.

…the tea party might likely be seen as a passing summer storm — whose legacy is distinctly limited to what it accomplished in 2010.

All of this is to say that any normally intelligent politician (yes, I appreciate the irony of that construction) should understand that a story suggesting division or discord within the Republican Party, especially at a time of one of its greatest triumphs, would be received by Politico like a Great Dane that just heard the word “bone,” but this doesn’t seem to have disturbed anyone’s equanimity. Indeed, if anything the cool, calm, pragmatic keepers of the “moderate” wing (not to be confused with a pack of “me first” sore losers like the Tea Partiers) seem to have said “to heck with it, let’s get some payback!”

“Candidates matter,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It was a good night for Republicans but it could have been a better one. We left some on the table.”


“If you think what happened in Delaware is ‘a win’ for the Republican Party then we don’t have a snowball’s chance to win the White House,” he said. “If you think Delaware was a wake-up call for Republicans than we have shot at doing well for a long time.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott put it plainly: “We did not nominate our strongest candidates.”

Had Republicans run Castle in Delaware and establishment favorites Sue Lowden in Nevada and Jane Norton in Colorado, Lott said, Tuesday would have turned out different.

“With those three we would have won and been sitting at 50 [senators],” he observed.

Another high-profile senator went even further, placing the blame for the Senate GOP’s failure squarely at the feet of Graham’s South Carolina colleague, DeMint.

You newbies in Congress take careful note – this is what solidarity and party discipline are all about.

Jim DeMint’s sins – apart from raising more money for Republican candidates than any other senator – appear to have consisted of backing conservative candidates, three of whom LOST!

The South Carolina conservative endorsed O’Donnell and Buck in the primary but only got behind Angle after she won the nomination. All told, he raised over $7 million for GOP candidates, more than any other senator.

I mean, it’s not like he backed any winners. Oh wait …

DeMint [also] got behind newly-elected GOP senators Pat Toomey (Penn.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ron Johnson (Wisc.) in primaries even as party officials had varying degrees of skepticism about their general election prospects.

Perhaps DeMint could have done even better if he’d had access to some of the $8 million the old-hand pragmatist Republicans concentrated on the California race (curiously omitted in the hanky-wringing over lost opportunities) to the detriment of all the other state races they are now hanging black crepe over.

Or as Ann Coulter observes if he could have convinced these gnomes of realpolitik not to back Linda McMahon against the truly reptilian and defeatable Dick Blumenthal:

Republicans had the ideal Connecticut candidate in Rob Simmons, who lost the primary to McMahon. He had won in liberal districts before, was a graduate of Haverford College and Harvard University, was an Army colonel who served in Vietnam and teaches at Yale. He also never kicked a man in the groin for entertainment. But Simmons didn’t have McMahon’s money, so Republicans went with McMahon.

See, establishment Republicans, we can play this game too. While you’re busy complaining, in the midst of one of the most decisive political reversals in history, that you didn’t get your majority back in the Senate, we can ask in a calm voice how that majority was lost in the first place. While you’re lecturing the rest of us about bipartisanship, compromise and politics as a gentleman’s war, we can inquire as to how that worked out for you in 2006 and 2008. And while you’re deriding the Tea Party and candidates it supported as not ready for prime time, we can ask how on earth you think you won the seats you did.

It’s not clear whether the “old boy network” Republicans will be the last to realize the obsolescence of their “business as usual” expectations, or that distinction will fall to the Democrats. What is clear however is the 2011 legislative session, and the election cycle that follows it, will be enormously helpful in hurrying such revelations along.

(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)