By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Politico is running a story today on what it calls the Republican Party's "nightmare scenario" of conservatives challenging up to a dozen GOP candidates in key House and Senate races in 2010. Politico points to several examples of these challenges, one of which is Utah, where Rep. Bob Bennett is in trouble after, among several troubling votes, "his Wall Street bailout vote last fall."
In fact, when you read the article carefully, not one of the conservative candidates mentioned says a word about social issues. All of their opposition is to candidates, like Bennett, who supported or voted for Obama's massive expansion of the federal government.
So this is not about litmus tests about abortion or gay marriage, as much as the left would like it to be. Gallup Polls like this and this show a majority of Americans—and most vocally, the tea party activists—upset at the size and scope of government.
Tea party activists told Politico that "the only way back to majority status is to embrace the conservative principles that the party jettisoned during the past decades once it became too enamored of power." I'd argue that those "conservative principles that the party jettisoned during the past decades" were not social issues but economic principles—like balanced budgets and less regulation of business. It was limited-government conservatism that got jettisoned from the GOP over the last decade or so. As I wrote earlier this week, getting back to economic responsibility—and creating jobs, jobs, jobs—is a winning formula for the GOP. If it's done in a calm, well-articulated manner, all the better. From Politico:
"New York 23, on some scale, is the first battle of a larger internal Republican debate over how to define the party," said former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a conservative who is challenging [Republican Governor Charlie] Crist for the Senate nomination. "They want us [tea party activists] to vote for their candidates, but they don't want us to run for office."
Rubio's race is one that many on the right point to as the next New York 23, a contest where conservatives and tea party activists are in open revolt about Crist and the national party's decision to endorse him despite his embrace—literally—of President Barack Obama and his stimulus package during a Florida visit in February.
I don't see putting candidates forth who want to rein in government spending as a "nightmare scenario." It's a great way to differentiate the GOP from the big-spending, big-taxing Democratic Party we see in full swing heading into 2010 and the midterm elections.