In 2004, conservative Congressman Pat Toomey (R) decided to challenge Republican US Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). He ran an insurgent campaign on principles and ideas. It shocked many as Specter was a shoe-in to win reelection – but Toomey did it anyway. He eventually lost in the primary, but did the noble thing and endorsed his former opponent. As many conservative members of the party do when there is a primary, he got behind the eventual nominee because, in the end, another Republican voice in the US Senate was a better choice than the Democratic alternative for conservatism. You can find many examples of conservatives doing just this – endorsing the eventual nominee and supporting them in the general election. With recent news from Alaska and the test case of Arlen Specter (D-PA) you can see that this is not the case when the situation is reversed.
In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter had been a Republican US Senator for most of his tenure, even considering running for the Presidential nomination in 1996. Then, in 2009, he switched parties. What changed? Unlike in 2004 where Specter barely defeated Toomey, all polling was showing Toomey defeating Specter in the primary. Similar story can be told for the Florida 2010 US Senate primary. Charlie Crist was the incumbent, Republican Governor of Florida planning to run for US Senate in 2010. He was challenged in the primary by former State Speaker of the House Marco Rubio. After Rubio surged in the polls and began to pick up the pace in fundraising – Crist jumped ships and ran as an Independent for US Senate. Now in Alaska – after losing the Republican primary to Joe Miller, incumbent US Senator Lisa Murkowski is considering running a write-in campaign for her seat. In each case you have a candidate who could not win their own party’s primary and in each case, the candidate who was supported by much of the Republican establishment for years…attempted to screw the GOP in the general.
With the examples ranging from Ronald Reagan in 1976 to Pat Toomey in 2004, conservative insurgent candidates have time and again endorsed the eventual Republican nominee “for the good of the party.” To help the party and the eventual nominee, conservatives have supported the candidates they faced in the primary in the general election. They got in line, if you will, behind the nominee. Now it’s time for moderates to be willing to do the same. If moderates are going to ask us to step in line behind them when they win the nomination – they need to be willing to do the same for us. If moderate candidates like Crist or Specter are ready to jump ship at the first sign that a conservative could defeat them in a primary – then we need to be ready to reject them. We need to get the NRSC, NRCC, and RNC out of the way in contested primaries – even if that contested primary includes an incumbent. Let the primary play itself out and support the eventual nominee. Let the people pick their own candidates – then get involved and fight through to the general.
That’s the problem with too many of these “moderate” Republican candidates – they want conservatives to compromise but when the same is asked of them, too many lately seem to buckle and jump ship (Crist, Specter) or endorse Democrats (Gilchrest, Scozzofava). All conservatives ask is the same respect we give your campaigns in the general – I don’t that’s asking too much.
Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant