Over the years, I’ve observed an interesting dichotomy as it relates to Republican moderates. When they are in elected office, they fold like cheap accordions before their Democrat masters. They lack any passion or gumption to fight for the principles of the party they supposedly represent. Yet, when it comes time to seek reelection against a conservative challenger, they transform into uncompromising truculent fighters who seek nothing short of unmitigated destruction of anyone and anything in their path to power.
We saw this vividly on display in 2008 when John McCain ran a feckless, insipid campaign against Obama, refusing to even criticize him in any meaningful way. Then, when it came time to face a conservative challenger in 2010 to defend his Senate seat, McCain spent $18 million tearing the guy to shreds. Towards the end of the campaign, when it became clear that the challenger, J.D. Hayworth, was dead in the water, he turned to Senator McCain in a debate and said, [paraphrasing] “John, had you spent millions of dollars tearing down Obama the same way you did to me, you would have been president.”
We are seeing the same reoccurring theme throughout some of the senatorial campaigns this cycle. Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar are the quintessential “go along to get along” Republicans. They have cordial relations with almost every major Democrat Senator and have worked alongside their fellow Democrats to craft many pieces of bipartisan legislation (think healthcare with Hatch and the Dream Act with Lugar). Unfortunately, that gentlemanly demeanor hasn’t extended to conservatives in the primary. Lugar has been heaping personal attacks upon Richard Mourdock and Orrin Hatch talks about punching conservatives. Hence, we know where their personal loyalties lie – and they’re not with conservatives.
This brings me to Senator McConnell. There is no question that conservatives must challenge Mitch McConnell for his leadership position. But there is a more fundamental way of defeating McConnell; unseating him in Kentucky! McConnell is up for reelection in 2014, and in a state that just elected Rand Paul over a McConnell puppet two years ago, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a conservative challenger to McConnell can emerge next year. To that end, McConnell is taking no chances. This, from Roll Call:
In conversations about 2014, Kentucky political operatives repeatedly noted the potency of McConnell’s research operation and its almost spectral presence.
“He’s always put an extraordinary amount of time and effort to make sure you’ve got all the information available for a potential opponent,” said one Kentucky Republican close to the Senator. “Part of that is creating ongoing research files for people who might come after to you years — years — ahead of time.”
And the research is not just the normal looking through old newspaper articles and public records. It’s a veritable human intelligence operation that includes tapping sources on the ground and digging up “unsearchable stuff,” explained Republicans familiar with his campaigns.
McConnell’s motto is “if somebody flicks a pebble at you, you hurl a boulder back” — and he’s made good on it.
So Mitch McConnell is a fighter after all! Who would ever know based upon his performance as minority leader? Where is this heralded oppo network as it relates to challenging Harry Reid and Dick Durbin? Or is that sort of aggression only reserved for conservatives?
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