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Conservative problem: too many choices?

Conservative problem: too many choices?

What happened in North Carolina Tuesday night?

I think that blogger CAC at Ace’s hits the nail on the head in this post, and points out a problem that GOP conservatives had better figure out a solution to or they’ll be griping even more about the vast-RINO-conspiracy against them:

I’ve seen a lot of hemming and hawing about how the villainous Karl Rove and his band of toads flooded the zone and dragged “their guy” Tillis across the finish line in yesterday’s North Carolina primary…

…[But] over 54% of Republican primary voters did not vote for Tillis. Had these other voters consolidated behind a single candidate, as the establishment always does even if they have to switch gears to do so (see the maneuvering to push Christie out and test Bush), Brannon or Harris would be the one facing Senator Hagan.

Conservatives jump from candidate to candidate in a lot of these races, and the more who throw their hat into the ring, the further it dilutes their voice in the primary.

CAC calls it the Baskin-Robbins problem. But whatever you want to call it, it consists of the fact that the Tea Party, a group of individualists, must somehow coalesce behind the best conservative candidate in each race if it is going to both maximize its power and choose an individual who actually has a chance of winning in the general, although it’s not at all clear that either Brannon or Harris would have been that person in this particular race.

Kay Hagan, who will be the Democrat running for re-election, certainly believed that Tillis was her most formidable opponent.

But the advantages of unity are something that conservatives sometimes lose sight of in their need to find someone who agrees with them on all measures. “Stab-in-the-back” theories are often advanced to explain their losses.

And yes, there is little doubt that there are some powerful RINO Republicans who are working against Tea Party interests, sometimes successfully.

But when one looks at many of the actual Tea Party candidates and the actual races they actually lose and how and why, there’s often no need to blame a RINO conspiracy because there are other rather obvious reasons for the losses. The candidates they field had better be smart, appealing, and not so numerous that they split the conservative vote. That’s not rocket science to figure out, although it’s not all that easy to accomplish.

So conservatives lose time and focus complaining about their victimization. It would be more productive to start figuring out how to win.

One more thing: Democratic candidates have figured all of this out, and in recent years have taken the tack (which they attempted in their campaign against Tillis, whom they—rightly, I believe—saw as their most dangerous opposition) of trying to influence the Republican primaries so that the weaker candidates win. Funding ads aimed at convincing conservatives that the strongest GOP candidate is too moderate and is really a RINO is part of the plan. It didn’t work effectively enough against Tillis last night, but it might work in the future. Divide and conquer.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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It is not just in NC. Here in TN, one of the reddest states, the most conservative candidate possible can win handily. However, year after year, two good to excellent Conservatives split the vote, allowing the establishment RINO to be nominated with 40% of the vote.

    ThomasD in reply to Tregonsee. | May 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I’m not too familiar with NC politics, but I do know a bit about TN.

    Firstly, TN is not as ‘red’ as you might think. There are plenty of people here who vote D if only because that’s the way pawpaw and mammaw voted. If they actually looked at the issues, or what voting D does on the national level that might change, but don’t count on it.

    Secondly, the TN Republican party has open primaries (Dems mostly caucus when they do put up candidates.) That means there are a lot of stealth dems and.or RINOs within the Republican ranks in TN.

    Many of us in the grassroots would like to change the primaries to closed, but there are far too many people entrenched within the party who rely on open primaries to keep their seats.

      Tregonsee in reply to ThomasD. | May 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      True about the hereditary Democrats, but they are literally dieing off. While a closed primary would be nice, a runoff would at least give an opportunity for Conservatives to coalesces around a single candidate.

      Captain Keogh in reply to ThomasD. | May 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Correct. Look at the Tennessee Republican Senagtors recently (Thompson, Alexander, Frist, Baker, etc.) not hard core ideological conservatives. I do not get this – NC is a purple state and in a purple state you do not run a polarizing candidate (see Virginia and Ken Cucinnelli). How conservative do you want Thom Tillis to be?

tarheelkate | May 8, 2014 at 8:20 am

As several pointed out on the NC thread below, in this case the “establishment” candidate could not really be credibly painted as a RINO. He’s somewhat inclined to stray off the conservative path now and then, but as the Speaker of the NC House he presided over tax reform and voter ID laws, major conservative accomplishments. He’ll run on that.

I think you are on the right track talking about the “Tea Party” as an individualist movement rather than a “party” as such. Here in NC there are lots of people with “Tea Party” inclinations who are working through and in the Republican local and state organizations.

Unfortunately, here in NC, Mark Harris was the spoiler. The MegaChurch pastor said that God called him to run. So, I guess He wanted to split the conservative vote and for Tillis to get the nomination.

    betty in reply to Musson. | May 8, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I believe that is the truth, and an easy tatic to boot. All Rove et el have to do is bribe or con someone into running against the tea party candidate. In how many states is this happing.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to betty. | May 8, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Several GOP candidates for NC state level offices out of Guilford and Wake counties have been outed as fake, having switched party affiliations just a few months ago.

      This is far more widespread than people know.

    ThomasD in reply to Musson. | May 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Agreed, no amount of TEA party unity can stop a stalking horse that has deep pocket support.

    But there is an upside, when people to the right of the ‘centrist’ run it forces the conversation in the right direction, and puts the ruling class on notice that a slip up or two can be politically fatal.

stevewhitemd | May 8, 2014 at 8:41 am

As neo-neo points out, it’s not enough to anoint oneself with the label “Tea Party” or “conservative”. You have to be smart, successful, appealing, and have the know-how to run the basics of a campaign (no, you don’t hire that, you have to know it yourself — you’re the candidate).

Some of the past “Tea Party” candidates from Sharron Angle to Christine Donnell were simply not appealing enough, and not experienced enough, to win a general election. They didn’t know how to play the game against Democrats such as Harry Reid. Tea Party candidates who have won, from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz, have generally had a significant amount of political experience. They knew how to play the game.

Bill Buckley said it best: vote for the most conservative candidate electable. It’s still good advice, though figuring out who’s “electable” is the real trick.

    ThomasD in reply to stevewhitemd. | May 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    It is important to choose your targets.

    Everyone wants the high value strike of electing their candidate.

    But often the TEA parties would be better served targeting the voters – raising awareness of issues, and forcing candidates to declare a position.

    platypus in reply to stevewhitemd. | May 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Allow me to remind everyone that O’Donnell and Angle got zero support from RNC, RSCC, and other PACs. Angle won all counties but Clark.

    I maintain that if either one of them had even average financial support and infrastructure support, the outcome would have been different.

      Captain Keogh in reply to platypus. | May 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Delaware is a fairly liberal state so a flake such as O’Donnell (who had no qualifications at all to be a Senator) had zero chance of winning. I would rather win with Mike Castle a guy I would agree with 50% of the time than have Chris Coons whom I would agree with 0% of the time. As for Sharron Angle she was an appalling choice and we had two better candidates running in Danny Tarkanian and Sue Lowden.

9thDistrictNeighbor | May 8, 2014 at 8:53 am

While not a Tea Party issue in RINO Illinois, we saw the same fracturing in the primary. The two lowest polling candidates should have dropped out…their egos prevented them. One (Bill Brady) campaigned at the end along the Rick Santorum line of more-pro-life-than-you, and Dan Rutherford was dogged by sexual misconduct allegations. When your internal polling screams single-digits, it’s past time to drop out.

persecutor | May 8, 2014 at 9:07 am

My question is how many of these so-called candidacies aren’t quietly fueled and financed by the establishment in order to achieve just that result?

Excellent advice, Neo-Neocon. I certainly hope the South Carolina candidates vying to take down Lindsey Graham in the Republican primaries are paying attention to you. Articles about this race have, so far, focused on the hope that the crowd of opponents will be able to keep Lindsey’s share of the vote below 50% so he will be forced into a run-off election. Wouldn’t it be better to winnow the field a bit (or a lot) and work on helping one person defeat Lindsey in the first place, without counting on a run-off election to deal the fatal blow?

    Valerie in reply to J Motes. | May 8, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Bingo, sort of. Sen. Graham is a hardworking, intelligent man who shows up to his committee meetings well-prepared, and is a major thorn in the side of this administration.

    It is really worthwhile to watch him in action.

    Somehow, this makes him a RINO, and I have seen major expressions of disapproval for him from self-described Conservatives, who cannot recognize a win, because they want to take all the marbles, right now, even though the game is chess.

    I think some of that expressed and public disapproval of Sen. Graham has more to do with the Democrats trying to get rid of him than any actual sins on his part.

      heimdall in reply to Valerie. | May 8, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Valerie, really? Are you kidding me?

      Lindsey Graham is a Big Government, America World Police Republican. Him and McCain are the last two publicly vocal supporters of that position.

      He supports amnesty wholeheartedly, which would do more to destroy the Republican party than any other initiative. Oh and he stated that those not supporting amnesty for illegal aliens are quote: “Bigots.”

      He supported Cap and Trade, which gives the psychotic environmentalists and the EPA even MORE power.

      He has rolled over more times on threats to shut down the Senate to get Benghazi info out of the administration that he makes Obama’s red line statements look as sure as the sun rising in the east.

      He supported TARP and bailing out big companies WHO should have been left to fail.

      He supported the so called “Fiscal Cliff” deal that raised taxes and broke his pledge not to raise taxes.

      He dilutes and tarnishes the Republican brand by cutting deals with Democrats and publicly smearing opposition to his RINO policies from the base.

      South Carolina is a state where Republicans can and definitely should nominate someone who is more aligned with their values. Graham should run for Senator of New Hampshire or Maine if he wants to continue his Democrat policies.

      At least then he would be the most “conservative we can get” from those states.

      Not from South Carolina which elected Jim Demint to the Senate.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Valerie. | May 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Valerie, Senator Graham is the quintessential RINO, with his picture next to the definition in Webster’s.

      Along with that, during his years in office 22 people have been trampled to death because they got between Graham and a MSM camera.

      J Motes in reply to Valerie. | May 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Valerie: I used to approve of Lindsey Graham, and he still often takes positions that do conservatives proud. No one expects any politician to be 100% true to anyone else’s preferred positions. As Ronald Reagan told us: “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”

      Unfortunately, Lindsey Graham’s stinko 20% hew to policies that are anathema to the right. They are not simple differences of opinion on how to achieve Republican, if not conservative, objectives, but are complete repudiations of Republican principles (or what used to be Republican principles). During his two terms as US Senator for the state of South Carolina he has been censured by no fewer than eight local Republican party groups (including the Lexington County GOP, Charleston County Republican Party, Pickens County GOP, Fairfield County GOP, and the Greenville SC Republican party).

      About 20 grassroots and tea party groups in SC have also censured Graham:

      heimdall lists many examples of Graham’s betrayals in his comment, but you might like to read the full lists of examples in two of the state GOP censure resolutions.

      The Pickens County censure resolution cites 30 examples of Graham violating the Republican Party platform:

      The Greenville SC Republican party resolution cites 29 examples:

      The Lexington County resolution adds: “reiterates his support for government intervention in the private sector in direct contradiction to the Republican principle of free markets.”

      Lindsey Graham entered national politics in 1994, when he ran successfully for the US House of Representatives. Human Events explained Graham’s positions in an article published on 10/14/94 (Vol. 50 Issue 39, p18). (I have a copy of the full text of this article but cannot find a link for it online.) Readers may be interested in comparing the 1994 Graham with the 2014 Graham. Here are a few quotes from Human Events:

      ” … Republicans have a first-class conservative nominee in State Rep. Lindsey Graham of Seneca. An alumnus of the University of South Carolina and city attorney for Central, S.C., the 39-year-old Graham won his first stint in the Palmetto State legislature only two years ago. Few one-termers, however, have made such a splash in Columbia; he became known as his state’s “Mr. Term Limits” by sponsoring legislation to limit legislators to 12 years in office and was also the chief proponent of an amendment to require a two-thirds vote of the legislature before spending non-recurring revenues for recurring expenses.

      ” … It was his strong love of the military that led Graham to offer a bill to ban homosexuals from serving in the state militia. “What we are talking about is behavior–not religion or color of skin,” declared Graham, “and behavior that makes most people in South Carolina very uncomfortable.”

      ” … Like another son of the 3rd District, John C. Calhoun, Graham is a fervent champion of liberty, the 10th Amendment and states’ rights. “The crime bill passed by Congress was a crime because it is philosophically wrong and unworkable to manage crime-fighting from Washington,” he says. His answer to crime: “Free up the state and municipalities from federal interference such as federal mandates which the Aiken City Council spends 50% of its budget trying to comply with. Once that’s out of their hair, they’ll have the time and resources to fight crime the right way.”

      “Along the same lines, Graham sounds the clarion call for what he dubs an “Old Deal”–that is, shifting as much power as possible back to the states in accordance with the 10th Amendment.”

      May we remind Sen. Graham of his fervent support for term limits? He has served two terms as US Senator, which meets the 12-year limit he called for in 1994. Methinks he has a markedly different viewpoint in 2014.

      Brendan Eich was recently forced out of the business he founded because, long ago, he gave $1000 to support legislation that protected traditional marriage. Will the left insist that Graham’s long-ago proposed legislation to ban homosexuals from the SC state militia requires him to lose his job as well? I oppose punishing people for engaging in Constitutionally protected conduct, including freedom of thought and freedom of speech, but I’m just awonderin’ if Eich and Graham will be treated differently by the mob rule to which Americans now willingly submit.

    heimdall in reply to J Motes. | May 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

    J Motes, the reason for so many candidates is that it is difficult for Graham to target them all, even with his hoard of cash. If there was one candidate, you would see it turn into a McCain v Hayworth, McConnell v Bevin type situation where they can overwhelm them and skate by.

    During a runoff situation, the idea is that the politically active conservative base can consolidate and overwhelm the weakly motivated and numerically inferior moderate base of Graham and drown him in a low turnout election, much like Cruz v Dewhurst in Texas in 2012.

    Especially since he is in the low 40’s approval rating as of now too, it looks pretty good if he can’t get 50%.

      J Motes in reply to heimdall. | May 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you for explaining the strategy, heimdall. It sounds like a good idea. However, it didn’t work in the Tillis primary, and I wonder how confident we should be that it will work in the Graham primary. SC requires a 50% vote share to avoid a runoff, but I think Tillis only needed 40% in NC. If Tillis had needed 50%, he would be facing a runoff election now.

      Has anyone compiled statistics that show the success/fail rate of this multi-candidate strategy? I have only seen anecdotal evidence, which is inconclusive so far.

Henry Hawkins | May 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I’d like to disavow people of this growing notion that the Tea Party is on the wane, as evidenced by Thom Tillis’ primary victory over Greg Brannon in NC.

Turn your eyes and ears east to NC D-3 where Walter Jones (R) just won against his primary challenger. Jones is a 20 yr veteran of the US House, but angered the GOP leadership by voting his constituents’ desires on a few budget-type bills. Boehner, et al, stripped Jones of his committee assignments and did their flat level best to oust him in the primary by supporting their handpicked challenger (whose turncoat name I refuse to publicize here).

Walter Jones has a very good record as a GOP representative over a long period of time, but that isn’t enough for the GOP establishment – you have to vote exactly as they say and to hell with your constituency, or there will be penalties, they will carve you out and get rid of you. The GOP leadership dumped cash into the race *against* their own party member by the hundreds of thousands, plus got PACs to help defeat him for a total of over a $1 million – in a small, rural NC district. The Democrats, of course, were also working against Jones, as to be expected.

Well, it failed. By virtue of Tea Party support, Walter Jones survived a tough and difficult primary race… AGAINST HIS OWN PARTY LEADERSHIP.

Go ahead, tell me again how the GOP leadership merely wants to field the best possible candidates. Go ahead. It’s bullshit. The GOP leadership wants obedient, nonthinking, centrist, fence-sitting, principles-ignoring robotronic monkeys.

Nobody has stated the obvious yet, but more NC Republicans voted against Tillis than for him.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to snopercod. | May 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    That is precisely Tillis’ and the GOP leadership’s problem.

    Despite all that the DC GOP gang arranged for him, Tillis ran against a political novice who had a $400k court judgment go against him for lying to investors in his business one month before the primary. And STILL, 56% of NC GOP primary voters went against him.

    “But Tillis is a real conservative!” I keep hearing. Who honestly believes the GOP establishment picked Tillis out hoping he’ll come to DC and be a Tea Party conservative? Oh, hell no – another sellout coming for NC, just like Renee Ellmers.

    Correction: Tillis WAS a real conservative, but just sold his soul to the DC GOP for a senate seat.

Erudite Mavin | May 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Good points made in this commentary.

Posting as a life long Conservative Republican,
the obsession with the word RINO is a bogus term used as a straw man to divide and conqueror and attempt to label
a person as liberal when the facts are, Republicans and
those especially of the conservative view are Strong on National Security — Support America and Do Not Blame America first — Support Israel — Understand Radical Islam is the enemy of America and Freedom Loving Countries —
and defending America and our allies in war is necessary.

There are some in Congress or running for office who do not support all or many of the above views that Republicans – Conservatives support.

The Blame America first and just look the other way while Radical Islam along with Putin attempt to spread their agenda are the Libertarians and are not Republicans or Conservatives and. They attempt to divide along with using tea party groups to do this.

The bottom line — Republicans must defeat Democrats. There is no time to play ego games.
The Republican who has the most Conservative who can actually defeat the Democrat should be supported.

Those who sat at home or voted third party in 2012 enabled Obama’s presidency.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Erudite Mavin. | May 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    The worst thing one can do after any election loss is blame the voters. Romney did not win in 2012 because Romney was a poor candidate and ran a poor campaign.

    You want to kill the GOP? Keep insinuating that voters ‘owe’ the GOP their votes.

    Yes, we’ve all heard Buckley’s nostrum about picking the most conservative candidate who can win. But Buckley and those who repeat this ad nauseum left out how exactly one does that, what formula one uses. I invite anyone to post how this is done with any sort of reliability. I’d really love to see that formula.

      platypus in reply to Henry Hawkins. | May 9, 2014 at 1:18 am

      Hey HH, screw the down thumb. You have thrown down a gauntlet that I wish I had done. Do I dare hold my breath until someone provides an answer to you? 🙂

        Henry Hawkins in reply to platypus. | May 9, 2014 at 11:30 am

        While I am a rigid *scientific* reductionist, reductionism doesn’t translate to grey-zone magisteria such as politics, religion, or the weather.

        I’ve been hearing this Buckley quote for 40 years. Because it requires a voter to discern ahead of time which conservative has the best chance to win it is essentially meaningless because it requires one to be able to see into the future. The highest paid, most regarded political “experts” in the country are unable to do this. Not to mention it also requires 100% objectivity during a voter’s consideration, lest internal biases lead the consideration away from that vision from the future as to which conservative has the best chance of winning. Things that sound outwardly sensible aren’t necessarily so in practice.

        Of course, I am always willing to learn something new if anyone can go beyond simply quoting this hoary old nostrum and actually explain how to employ it. And if there can be no formula, no way to make it work reliably – or even reasonably reliably – why do people keep quoting it?

    heimdall in reply to Erudite Mavin. | May 9, 2014 at 12:24 am

    So basically you want the GOP to be the war party and everyone else be damned. Yeah okay. . .

Democratic candidates have figured all of this out

Probably not; but not really relevant. The Democratic Party has figured it out. That is the only real function of Party machinery – election strategy. The Tea Party has no national organization or effective structure, and so cannot devise, implement, or enforce a national election strategy. Tea Party voters and activists know this, so are operating as a dissident wing of the Republican Party. But the rest of the Republican Party can’t be expected to be terribly cooperative with such upstarts.

This is not a unique problem organic to the Tea Party; any grassroots movement would encounter the same obstacle.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to tom swift. | May 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Upstarts? 2010 midterms ring a bell? That’s when the GOP cooperated with the TP. 2012 Romney flameout ring a bell? That’s when the GOP went against the TP.

    I suggest TP-ers are a bit more than upstarts.

Tillis is a reliable conservative and frankly it is either dishonest or nuts to claim otherwise.

Sorry your nutcase fraud who thinks 9/11 Truthers have a point didn’t sell to most voters.

And it is entirely speculative to assume ALL of the other votes would have gone to nutcase/crook Brannon even if he were the only opponent. Some would have, but others would have gone to Tillis and others would stay home or write in. That’s the way elections work. Assuming otherwise is pure fantasy – which frankly underlines the separation from reality of the Brannon backers.

While I am at it, all the “Rove dragged him over the finish line” nonsense smacks of conspiracy ravings. If you wish to avoid being labeled as kooks, wacko-birds, and the lunatic fringe, it might be a good idea to avoid rantings that sound just like kooks, wacko birds, or the lunatic fringe.

Just a thought.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Estragon. | May 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Increasingly it seems that anyone who does not believe exactly as you do as a moderate Republican is a nutcase, a kook, and so on.

    I implore you to keep it up, because nothing swells the Tea Party ranks faster than this precise attitude. We thank you.

Usually see the opposite being argued: That multiple opponents give the best chance of forcing a run-off. Then, with only two names on the runoff you can defeat the incumbent/establishment backed candidate.

That’s how Ted Cruz became a Senator. Cruz got 34% to Dewhurst’s 45% in the primary, other candidates getting the remaining 21%. Dewhurst “won” but needed to break 50% to avoid a runoff.