There has been much ink spilled on the Delaware Republican Senate primary. I am in the Charles Krauthammer camp on this one. Krauthammer is a fan of the Buckley rule, promulgated by William F. Buckley. In essence, conservatives should support the candidate in the party primary who is the most conservative of the potential nominees who is also electable.
In Delaware, that rule would have suggested backing Congressman Mike Castle. Nate Silver, the numbers maven of the website fivethirtyeight.com, gave Castle a 94% chance of winning the general election for Joe Biden's old seat over Democrat Chris Coons before the primary last week. Castle had a solid 11-point lead over Coons. In a very blue state, Castle had already won statewide twelve times.
The nominee who came out of the primary, Christine O'Donnell, had lost her only prior statewide run by 30% and is given a 6% chance of winning the seat by Silver. I think Castle's chances were slightly less than 94%, and O'Donnell's may be slightly better than 6% (the first post-primary poll shows her down by 11%). But in essence, the small number quibbling on probabilities does not matter. The GOP will likely lose a seat it easily could have won.
Some conservative purists are happy with this result. I am not. I want the health care bill to be repealed. For that to happen, the GOP needs to win the White House in 2012 and hold both Houses in the Congress sworn in in 2013. The loss of the winnable Delaware Senate seat makes that harder to accomplish. Castle voted against the health care bill and was a vote for repeal. Chris Coons will not vote for repeal.
I dislike Stalinist mindsets (purge the moderates) whether on the left or the right. The GOP will remain a minority party if it expels all its moderates. Radio talk show host Mark Levin is constantly attacking Mark Kirk and telling conservatives to stay home in this race. (Mark Levin responds here -- ed.)Will Alexi Giannoulias advance the conservative agenda more than Mark Kirk will in the Senate? That will be the result if conservatives stay home. Republican Bill Brady leads in the Illinois governor's race by 50-37. Kirk leads for the Senate 41-37. That tells you who is sitting the race out at the moment. Kirk voted against the health care bill in the House. He is a vote that is needed for repeal. If the choice is between a Republican who votes like a conservative 60%-70% of the time and a liberal Democrat who never does, how can conservatives sit the race out?
The Tea Party rallied behind Scott Brown in his race for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts. Their energy and contributions helped him surge in the final weeks of the campaign. Is Brown any more reliably conservative than Castle or Kirk? No, he's not.
The Democrats have shown more wisdom than the Republicans in using a big tent to build enough of a majority to get their legislation passed. Pro-choice groups held their tongues when Chuck Schumer anointed pro-life Bob Casey to take on Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania in 2006. Casey, the strongest Democratic candidate for that race, won easily. Rahm Emmanuel picked Iraq war veterans, pro-life candidates, pro-gun candidates, and fiscally conservative candidates to run in tossup or slightly GOP-leaning districts. Many of them won in 2006 and 2008. That is how Nancy Pelosi built her big majority and got the stimulus, the energy bill, the health care bill, and the financial reform bill passed.
With the big majority the Democrats held, Pelosi gave a pass to a few dozen members in the most conservative districts to vote no on controversial bills so that they could retain their electoral viability. The view of some conservatives is that once you cross the Party, you are toast. I understand the anger at Arlen Specter, who switched parties and cast the critical 60th vote for health care reform. Jim Jeffords switched parties in 2001 but agreed to delay the date of the switch so the GOP could still control the Senate with Cheney's tie-breaking vote to allow the Bush tax cut bill to come to a vote. There were a few Democrats who crossed over to the GOP in the '90s, and one congressman from Alabama did so this year.
When one party becomes dominant for a period of time, self-serving politicians, who above all seek to keep their jobs for a lifetime, will make the switch if they think it makes them more viable. I think it is grotesquely unfair to argue that Mark Kirk is no different from Arlen Specter. There is only one Arlen Specter, and one is enough.
Conservatives are angry, but they also need to be smart. I think Mike Castle should endorse Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. I think Lisa Murkowski should give up her futile write-in campaign in Alaska, in reality nothing more than a chance for her to get back at her blood enemy Sarah Palin, and endorse the GOP primary winner, Joe Miller. And I think Mark Levin should get with the program and back the GOP nominee in Illinois, Mark Kirk.
I have read too many really lame arguments that the GOP would be better off not winning control of the House or the Senate in 2010, because that would make it easier for Barack Obama to run against the GOP in 2012. Barack Obama will run against the GOP, regardless of how many members it has in the House or Senate next year. He is running against a GOP minority now as the party of no, even though Democrats have all the power. Obama is still repeating his mantra -- "George Bush drove the economy into the ditch. Don't give the Republicans back the keys" -- twenty months into his term of office. Voters have tuned him out for months, and Bush, to his credit, has stayed beyond the fray. Americans like people who take personal responsibility for their lives, and they think presidents have to be held accountable when they have all the power. Obama is unable to ever admit he may have underperformed (he grades himself a B+), or worse, screwed things up, and made things worse since he took over. People who have been told they are "the one," the race-healer, the earth-saver, do not see themselves as mere mortals.
Conservatives and Republican voters have to see the bigger threat -- which is not moderate Republicans, the Republicans who may have the best chance of winning in some states or districts. The threat is where the county winds up if Democrats remain in power. If you want bigger deficits, more spending, more czars, more commissions, higher taxes, more regulations on business -- a job-killing economy, where the ultimate goal of those in power is to redistribute, not grow the pie -- then stick to the GOP civil war, and the Democrats will survive, even in what should be a very bad year for them. Our side needs to aim its fire in only one direction: toward throwing the Democrats out of power.
If the GOP were to win control of the Senate, it would be far harder for Obama to fill the judicial ranks with very liberal appointees in 2011 and 2012. The chair of the Judiciary Committee decides when there are hearings. That is far more power than having to filibuster every nominee. How can conservatives prefer to remain in the minority? If the Democrats remain in the majority, they create the legislation. It is their ball. Let a GOP-controlled Congress pass bills, and have Obama veto them. I think Obama gets hurt by this, not the GOP. Those advising the GOP to win seats but not enough to take control act as if they can wave a wand and pick which seats to win. Those defeatists saying the GOP is better off in the minority the next two years are like an NFL coach telling his team to lose on the road to a division rival for fear that a road win would anger their opponent and give them a revenge motive when they play again at home. Please.
If conservatives are angry at the GOP establishment, this is understandable. When the GOP was in the majority, members squandered their mandate. It is time to hold our GOP elected officials' feet to the fire if the GOP takes back control. But first it has to do that. The primary season is over, and it is time to move on and throw out the bums who are left -- and that means the party in power, the Democrats.
Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.