How the GOP establishment plans to defeat conservatives

Thomas Lifson
A long and revealing article in National Journal explains how the GOP establishment is focusing on its real enemy, tea partiers and other conservatives who have the temerity to offer primary voters and alternative to get-along-go-along candidates who will do the bidding of party elders and allow immigration amnesty, while not frightening big money donors from Wall Street.

Josh Kraushaar and James Oliphant mainly focus on the North Carolina primary, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan is vulnerable, and where the establishment has picked its man, State House Speaker Thom Tillis.  They write:

…the emerging establishment strategy [is] to engage its own roster of outside groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a coordinated effort to ensure that the most electable GOP candidates get nominated, especially in pivotal Senate contests.

Instead of merely handing out endorsements, these groups are spending big on expensive advertising campaigns on behalf of their favored candidates. They're quietly circulating opposition research raising questions about tea-party challengers' fitness to serve. And they're even airing positive testimonials—an approach once considered the domain of the candidates themselves, not outside groups. (The New York Times reported that more than a quarter of the ads from super PAC American Crossroads so far this cycle have had a positive spin; not a single one did in 2012.)

McConnell former Chief of Staff Billy Piper says that McConnell learned from two veteran Republican senators who managed to beat back conservative opposition with aggressive tactics. In 2010, John McCain won decisively by raising big money, moving to the right on immigration, and casting his opponent—former House member and talk-show host J.D. Hayworth—as out of the mainstream. Two years later, Orrin Hatch attacked outside conservative groups that attempted to paint him as a moderate, winning two-thirds of the GOP primary vote against an opponent backed by the tea-party group FreedomWorks.

When the establishment uses these tactics, supposedly it is about “electability,” never mind that this also damages the Republican brand, and should the insurgent win, helps out the Democrat candidate. To them, electability matters less than protecting  the big interests and their pet causes from constitutionalists who might rock the boat. Never forget that the establishment fought for Charlie Crist (now re-Crist-ened as a Democrat) over insurgent Marco Rubio, and didn’t want Ted Cruz to obtain the Texas Senate nomination.  In North Carolina they have:

Tillis, with his pragmatic streak and country-club credentials, represents just about everything tea partiers rose up to oppose.

The strategy is not exactly one of forthrightness, either:

Thus far, he has handled that delicate matter largely by keeping a low profile in the race, whenever possible avoiding forums where his conservative opponents might raise questions.

The stakes are clear:

If the scorched-earth primary strategy succeeds, the establishment will be emboldened, as House Speaker John Boehner has been, to take on the tea party more aggressively than ever. If it fails—or even half-succeeds—then the tea party remains unvanquished and returns to fight another day.

Exactly.

I am as excited about winning the Senate majority as anyone. And I will back establishment candidates if they win their primary fights, including Tillis. But let’s not kid ourselves about who is pulling the strings and what they expect to get for their big money strategy in the primary campaigns.

Hat tip: Mark Levin

A long and revealing article in National Journal explains how the GOP establishment is focusing on its real enemy, tea partiers and other conservatives who have the temerity to offer primary voters and alternative to get-along-go-along candidates who will do the bidding of party elders and allow immigration amnesty, while not frightening big money donors from Wall Street.

Josh Kraushaar and James Oliphant mainly focus on the North Carolina primary, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan is vulnerable, and where the establishment has picked its man, State House Speaker Thom Tillis.  They write:

…the emerging establishment strategy [is] to engage its own roster of outside groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a coordinated effort to ensure that the most electable GOP candidates get nominated, especially in pivotal Senate contests.

Instead of merely handing out endorsements, these groups are spending big on expensive advertising campaigns on behalf of their favored candidates. They're quietly circulating opposition research raising questions about tea-party challengers' fitness to serve. And they're even airing positive testimonials—an approach once considered the domain of the candidates themselves, not outside groups. (The New York Times reported that more than a quarter of the ads from super PAC American Crossroads so far this cycle have had a positive spin; not a single one did in 2012.)

McConnell former Chief of Staff Billy Piper says that McConnell learned from two veteran Republican senators who managed to beat back conservative opposition with aggressive tactics. In 2010, John McCain won decisively by raising big money, moving to the right on immigration, and casting his opponent—former House member and talk-show host J.D. Hayworth—as out of the mainstream. Two years later, Orrin Hatch attacked outside conservative groups that attempted to paint him as a moderate, winning two-thirds of the GOP primary vote against an opponent backed by the tea-party group FreedomWorks.

When the establishment uses these tactics, supposedly it is about “electability,” never mind that this also damages the Republican brand, and should the insurgent win, helps out the Democrat candidate. To them, electability matters less than protecting  the big interests and their pet causes from constitutionalists who might rock the boat. Never forget that the establishment fought for Charlie Crist (now re-Crist-ened as a Democrat) over insurgent Marco Rubio, and didn’t want Ted Cruz to obtain the Texas Senate nomination.  In North Carolina they have:

Tillis, with his pragmatic streak and country-club credentials, represents just about everything tea partiers rose up to oppose.

The strategy is not exactly one of forthrightness, either:

Thus far, he has handled that delicate matter largely by keeping a low profile in the race, whenever possible avoiding forums where his conservative opponents might raise questions.

The stakes are clear:

If the scorched-earth primary strategy succeeds, the establishment will be emboldened, as House Speaker John Boehner has been, to take on the tea party more aggressively than ever. If it fails—or even half-succeeds—then the tea party remains unvanquished and returns to fight another day.

Exactly.

I am as excited about winning the Senate majority as anyone. And I will back establishment candidates if they win their primary fights, including Tillis. But let’s not kid ourselves about who is pulling the strings and what they expect to get for their big money strategy in the primary campaigns.

Hat tip: Mark Levin