Whose "Idiots" Are Shrewder? GOP Fractures Over Tea Party Candidates

At Powerline, Paul Mirengoff defends himself from attacks from Mark Levin:

Earlier this week, Mark Levin responded to one of my posts about the Delaware Senate primary. In that post, I noted that, in 2006, leftist activists supported less than reliably liberal Democratic candidates like Ben Nelson and were rewarded for their flexibility with the passage of Obamacare. I then argued that, by supporting Christine O'Donnell in the Delaware Senate primary despite the likelihood (demonstrated by polls) that she would lose the general election, whereas her centrist opponent in the primary would likely win, certain Republican activists are being less astute than leftists like Markos Moulitsas were in 2006.

This battle stems from the possibility that Mike Castle will be defeated in the GOP Senate primary in Delaware by Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell, putting a lock GOP pickup with Castle into the likely Dem hold category. O'Donnell would join Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska and Rand Paul in Kentucky, in putting races that would have been GOP walkovers into a much more competitive state. It's an interesting strategic dilemma for activists. After all, Mike Castle appears not to agree too much with the Tea Party movement. Why shouldn't they support the candidate espousing their views? The issue is Delaware - a blue state that is an unlikely place for a Tea Party triumph (strangely enough, the Tea Party celebrated Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts, even though Brown is pretty much where Castle is on the issues.) I'll discuss the activist strategy on the flip.

First, if Daily Kos did much in the way of supporting Ben Nelson in 2006, I must have missed it. In fact, I remember posting an appreciation of Ben Nelson's unwillingness to punch his own party even though he is surely the most conservative Republican in Congress (befitting his representation of one of the most conservative sates in the country) as opposed to the manner in which Joe Lieberman behaved, and being severely criticized for it. The reality is the Netroots had little to say about Ben Nelson because the Netroots is irrelevant to Ben Nelson and his political fortunes (in Nebraska, the Netroots supported Scott Kleeb for, first the House, and then the Senate, Kleeb lost both races. Nebraska is not fertile ground for progressives.)

By contrast, the Netroots went all out in trying to defeat Joe Lieberman in 2006. The difference? Connecticut is a blue state and Lieberman was completely out of touch with the Democratic Party in Connecticut. Moreover, the winner of the Dem primary would have been the overwhelming favorite in the general election, but for the loophole in the Connecticut election law that permitted Lieberman to run both in the Dem primary and on the Connecticut for Lieberman party in the general election. In any event, the seat was not placed in jeopardy by the challenge to Lieberman.

Similarly, this year's challenge to Blanche Lincoln by Bill Halter in Arkansas did not put the seat in jeopardy. Lincoln was a dead person walking politically (as she remains today.) Halter may have had only a remote chance of winning, but a remote chance is better than no chance at all. The Dem Party's support for Lincoln has been, to coin a phrase, freaking retarded. It is wasted money.

A less thoughtful Netroots supported challenge involved Joe Sestak's against Arlen Specter. There is no knowing for sure, but I believe Specter would have a better chance of winning against GOP candidate Pat Toomey than Sestak has. And on the issues, I think Specter was better than Sestak, and would be for his final term (the same way Jim Jeffords was when he switched parties.)

This is all very interesting and cerebral, but can you really be a successful issue activist and operate in this manner? I think there are serious limits to this manner of thinking for activists. While I think supporting the O'Donnell candidacy is clearly stupid for the Tea Partiers, because it's Delaware, it's not such a clear cut case in Kentucky, Alaska and Nevada.

In Nevada, Sharron Angle beat a damaged candidate in Sue Lowden. Reid was in only a slightly worse position against Lowden, who was imploding. I'm not sure Republicans had great options in Nevada.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul is probably going to win, though by smaller margins than might have been the case with another candidate. The Netroots has hitched its horse to the Blue Dog Dem in the race, Jack Conway. I think this is a mistake by the Netroots. Jack Conway is not with progressives on most of the issues. Conway's win would be a win for the Democratic Party, but not for progressives (see Travis Childers and Heath Shuler.) Sure, I'd prefer a Conway win, but not to the point where I would lift a finger for him.

In Alaska, Joe Miller remains the favorite and his victory would be a big one for the Tea Party. This seems to me a case where the Tea Partiers' strategic calculation was an easy one - Alaska was ripe for the Tea Party.

I am still amazed that progressives have not made the Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold races the centerpiece of their activism this electoral season. Losses by either or both of these progressive stalwarts would be devastating to progressivism. These are the politicians who have fought for progressive legislation and progressive values through thick and thin. And yet, the Netroots seems indifferent to the fact that they are in the races of their lives. I don't get it.

Criticism of the Tea Partiers' strategic choices seems mired in the view that a Mike Castle win in Delaware is a win for the Tea Party. It isn't and the Tea Partiers have enough sense to realize that. But the strange thing is that the Tea Partiers do not have enough sense to realize a Christine O'Donnell win will likely not be an ultimate victory for the Tea Partiers.

But counting Dem wins as progressive wins is just as myopic. A win for Ben Nelson is not a win for progressivism. Yes the alternative was worse, but that signals a race where progressives need not have been invested. And they weren't. A Jack Conway win will also not be a win for progressivism.

Let me put it this way - for progressive activists, what would you rather see - Jack Conway win or Barbara Boxer win? Which outcome is more important? It's a no brainer to me. The Boxer race SHOULD be the most important of this cycle for progressive activists. It appears it is not.

Speaking for me only

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    Although I voted for him in the primary, (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:02:28 AM EST
    it seems obvious on reflection that Specter was just as much a dead man walking as Blanche Lincoln is.

    For me, the only excitement in Kentucky was in the Democratic primary, when Conway faced off against Dr. Dan Mongiardo, a truly repugnant excuse for a Democrat.

    I agree on Alaska, and I am absolutely cheering on Christine O'Donnell in Delaware.

    As to NV, it seems pretty obvious to me that Reid could only beat Sharon Angle. Lowden was damaged, but against Reid, she likely would have recovered. Reid is really lucky that Danny Tarkanian never caught fire.

    Speaking of primaries, Adam Clayton Powell IV seemed pretty confident on the news last night that he would beat Charlie Rangel tomorrow. Thoughts?

    And to respond to your larger point (none / 0) (#2)
    by andgarden on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:03:36 AM EST
    I agree that GOP activists aren't choosing their battles very well. Though it is interesting to me that the money isn't going through the Club for Growth as much this cycle as it has in the past.

    How is that obvious? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:08:24 AM EST
    What seems obvious is that Sestak is a dead man walking.

    How Specter would have done is merely conjecture.


    He was polling worse (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:25:19 AM EST
    but some of the polls were less than reliable. . .

    I don;t remember that (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:26:55 AM EST
    In fact, I remember Specter poling better.

    I'm mobile now (none / 0) (#12)
    by andgarden on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:24:10 AM EST
    But I'm pretty sure of this one.

    Specter (none / 0) (#26)
    by looking italian on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 07:29:10 AM EST
    Ipsos had a Toomey-Specter hypo at Toomey 52-40.

    The last PPP had Specter's job approval split at 27-57.


    is it possible that for once (none / 0) (#3)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:07:43 AM EST
    republicans will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

    Possibly (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:09:06 AM EST
    But this discussion is more about activists than party stalwarts.

    it is hard to believe that some (none / 0) (#7)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:24:14 AM EST
    people, even some commenters here, dont seem to make a big distinction between a Conway loss/win and Boxer loss/win.

    That is the (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:26:27 AM EST
    party stalwart's view. A D is a D.

    Though I suspect you are referencing the folks against Boxer. Yes, that was one of the stupidest subthreads ever hosted at this site.


    Seems like they are not taking the threats (none / 0) (#6)
    by ruffian on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:09:12 AM EST
    to Boxer and Feingold seriously. Time to start thinking the unthinkable.

    Is that what it is? (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:09:31 AM EST
    Dumb confidence?

    I just can't think of anything else (none / 0) (#14)
    by ruffian on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 11:33:32 AM EST
    Unless there is something personal I'm not plugged into.

    I wish I knew too (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 11:45:33 AM EST
    They want to focus on new names and faces, and that is okay at certain times but this isn't one of those.  Our country has never faced greater pain and suffering in my lifetime as we do right now, only progressives can lead us out of this in humane ways.  But Dem party activists are seemingly blind.

    My idiots are not shrewder than the (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:26:44 AM EST
    Tea Party.  That is such a super sucky reality :)  Inspite of all those meta diaries discouraging self reflection....when our idiots are not head and shoulders above Tea Party activists in chasing down the dream, we need some rational self reflection desperately :)

    The TP may be making a strategic mistake (none / 0) (#15)
    by BTAL on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 11:43:53 AM EST
    but the one thing they are doing to the GOP that the progressives are not doing to the DNC - kicking them squarely in the privates AND getting the GOP's attention.  

    IMHO, isn't that the definition of activism?

    It is (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 11:51:41 AM EST
    I acknowledge their moxie too.  But the Republican party is getting kicked squarely in the nuts all day long by people who are listed prominently in the DSM IV.  There are a lot of things that fuel moxie but all are not equally desireable.

    And if you are laying on the ground unable to walk and unable to make any new Republicans.....I sort of like you that way :)


    What is DSM IV? n/t (none / 0) (#18)
    by BTAL on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:07:55 PM EST
    The Bible for psychiatric (none / 0) (#20)
    by MKS on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:14:14 PM EST
    disorders.....It describes and defines psychiatric disorders and is considered authoritative...

    an redundancy joke (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:49:52 PM EST
    is in there someplace

    It's Complex (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:56:59 PM EST
    Thank you (none / 0) (#21)
    by BTAL on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:33:05 PM EST
    Boxer and Feingold (none / 0) (#19)
    by MKS on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 12:12:39 PM EST
    are in close races and must be helped....

    Conway is a dead man walking....

    Money and time should go to Feingold and Boxer.  I think Obama went to Wisconsin recently to help Feingold.  Obama still has postive job approval ratings in California, so a visit here by him would save Boxer.

    Obama came a few weeks ago (none / 0) (#25)
    by Cream City on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 05:39:35 PM EST
    to help Feingold, yes, and comes back in a couple of weeks to do so -- but not Obama's most recent visit, as Feingold had to be elsewhere on Labor Day.

    In all of these (and more!) visits to Wisconsin, back to being the most purple state, Obama is coming as much to help in the gubernatorial race -- as it was White House pressure that pushed my mayor into the race (and pushed out the only Dem then).

    So tomorrow, I proudly go to the polls to vote GOP in the primary, yes! as the Repubs are fractured in that one.  Time for the Wisconsin sport of primary crossover, which so few outside Wisconsin understand. (And so, many still do not understand the 2008 primary here, among others -- including the major polling firms still calling here and continuing to screw up the questions that ask with which party I have registered to vote.  And I can see from the pollsters' reports that they still don't get it, even after I explained How Politics, It Is Done Here, so don't trust those results).  

    The Dem candidates for governor and for Senate  need me in November, but not now.  Right now, in case the GOP candidate wins for governor (as is very possible, in this very purple state, I have to vote for the lesser of the fractured GOP's evils.  

    Bottom line: Obama made me do it! with the mess made of the governor's race on the Dem side, even if it's not as messy as the GOP side.  I offer that help for those who will try to unravel what happens in Wisconsin tomorrow  


    While I'm voting in R Primary, YOU (none / 0) (#27)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 08:35:16 AM EST
    should be voting on the D side to oust your awful Sheriff.

    Oh, if only we could (none / 0) (#28)
    by Cream City on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 10:49:01 AM EST
    get rid of the guy.  He is so awful.

    But his opponent has done nada.  There is no hope.


    'Bullet In The Head' (none / 0) (#24)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 02:59:37 PM EST
    for Tom Ross, Delaware GOP Chair

    The chairman of the Delaware Republican Party received a death threat last week over his support for Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del) over Tea Party challenger Christine O'Donnell in the state's upcoming Senate primary, a party official confirmed to the Huffington Post.

    The threat, issued in the form of an email, told chairman Tom Ross that he deserves "a bullet in the head" for backing "political ass-kissing RINO's" [Republicans in name only].

    "It is one thing to have your country screwed over by socialists, it is far worse to be backstabbed by people pretending to be your friends," the email read. "We will either rid the GOP of pieces of sh!t like you, or we will start a new 'Common Sense Conservative' party and render you all useless."