This year, there will be a number of solid opportunities for us to find conservative candidates in red states – either through open seats, Democrat-held seats, or weak GOP seats. While it is important that the entire movement engage each race early on and back the right candidate, we must ensure that there are no errors made in the impetuous pursuit of the ‘first candidate out the gate.’
Remember that people like Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz were not elected officials. They came onto the scene without an obvious path to the nomination. Before we endorse a candidate, we need to make sure that the best candidate is known to us and that the best candidate is not sitting on the sidelines. We are committed to fully working through each state and vetting the candidates with the proper diligence.
We have a clear opportunity to take out Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. The Democrat Party is practically wiped off the map in the state, and she is the only remaining Democrat elected statewide. This provides us with an opportunity to elect one of our people to the Senate. The establishment candidate being touted is Congressman Bill Cassidy, a leadership hack who voted for the tax increase/stimulus fiscal cliff bill. Others have mentioned Congressman Charles Boustany, a man we have already exposed as a pro-tax, pro-Palestinian liberal. Then there is Congressman John Fleming, who has a solid voting record and has been an articulate voice on the tax issue for many years. He is seriously considering the race, and we definitely would like to take a look at him. But again, we must ensure that the field is really filled out, and that there is no other candidate who is a superstar that can be recruited.
Kentucky is probably the most critical state. With dismal approval numbers, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to launch a decapitation strike against the GOP establishment and take out Mitch McConnell in a primary. There are already grumblings about a potential challenger or two. We will be closely monitoring the developments, and unlike other groups, we will not shy away from challenging McConnell if a viable opponent emerges or can be recruited.
Mike Johanns’s surprise retirement in Nebraska presents us with another great opportunity to replace a flaccid status quo Republican with a constitutional conservative in a Republican State. Like most other states in the Great Plains, the known establishment options are mediocre at best and liberal at worst. The entire House delegation is weak and the Governor, Dave Heineman, has given no impression that he would be any different from someone like Mike Rounds or John Hoeven. With that said, if he wants the seat, he probably has it. If not, there are some ‘good out of the box’ options that we are looking into. Stay tuned.
In Georgia, we scared Saxby Chambliss into retirement, presenting another pickup opportunity from R to C. Congressman Jack Kingston is all but in the race. He is a big spending appropriator. Tom Price would definitely be an improvement from Chambliss, but he is not someone we would back. On the one hand, he talks a good game, and has even floated the idea of challenging Boehner. On the other hand, his voting record is a mixed bag, as he has often voted with Boehner on key issues. His comments defending Karl Rove’s RINO project indicate that he lacks the understanding of the challenges we are collectively battling within the party. Congressman Paul Broun has a solid fiscal and social conservative record, but his inability to run a media savvy campaign and stay on message (without making Akin-like comments) is a concern to many of us. There is still time to find someone who has Broun’s commitment to conservatism with the ability to effectively articulate it.
In South Dakota, liberal Tim Johnson should be a dead-man walking. There is no doubt that former GOP Gov. Mike Rounds could easily defeat him. But so could any viable Republican. Rounds has already said that he would have voted for the fiscal cliff tax hike bill. He would be a complete replica of big government populist John Hoeven in North Dakota. We’re still trying to work on finding a better candidate.
Arkansas is another example. Democrat Mark Pryor should be toast. Tom Cotton, who we endorsed for his House seat, is taking a look at the race. All things equal, he is still young and should accrue some good work in the House before running for Senate. We’re looking at all the options. But clearly, if there is no other conservative who gets into the race, he would be head and shoulders above some of the other names floated.
There are a number of other good opportunities in states like Alaska and Montana. Then there are some purple states like Colorado, Iowa and Michigan where we can potentially find candidates who could win statewide. The point is that it is still early, and we need to let the process play out a bit longer. However, we are committed to staying on top of each race, and promise to leave no stone unturned in finding viable Constitutional conservatives in each winnable state.