In the wake of the government shutdown and near-default, which was led by TEA Party extremists, the more traditional GOP supporters (which includes the business community) are gearing up to fend off challenges by TEA Party-backed candidates in primaries for the mid-term elections.
The business community did not support the radical path chosen by TEApublicans in Congress to defeat Obamacare. Of course, they know too well that government shutdowns and threats of defaulting on the national debt are not effective or rational tools in a political battle. They are well-aware that the use of such drastic measures is not conducive to running a profitable business, and those who once supported the extremists are turning their backs on them now.
Many business-backed super PACs that have traditionally stayed out of primary races are now preparing to throw support to more traditional–that is to say, moderate– Republicans who may face primary challenges from TEA party candidates next year and again in 2016.
Just as the party has realized that it was a mistake to welcome these people into its ranks, so too are traditional supporters realizing it was a mistake to support the Tea Party financially. The trend has reversed.
Traditional Republicans, dismayed at the damage done to the party by the shutdown, are determined to minimize further damage to the party’s image by staving off further erosion of the party’s reputation by fighting off internal challenges to incumbents who are seen by the TEA Party fringe as not being conservative enough.
Charlie Spies, co-founder of Restore Our Future, a super PAC which spent over $140 million last year in support of Mitt Romney said,
“The prime targets for this sort of a strategy are incumbents that expect a primary election challenge.”
Former Representative Steve LaTourette of Ohio who has founded another PAC, Defending Main Street, hopes to raise at least $8 million to be devoted to protect more mainstream incumbents from primary challenges. He says, “Hopefully we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them, we’re going to be very aggressive and we’re going to get in their faces.”
Party strategists, leaders, and donors are discussing various tactics to be used to fend off TEA party challengers which include attack ads, overthrowing the Ron Paul libertarians who have taken control of the Iowa and Minnesota state parties, promoting open primaries rather than nominating conventions which have produced radical candidates such as Mike Lee of Utah and recent gubernatorial loser Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia. They also hope to be able to counter TEA party powerhouses such as Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks — organizations that have targeted Republicans who have had the audacity to actually talk to and attempt to work with Democrats.
The first project for LaTourette’s Defending Main Street group will be to defend Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho, who faces a challenge from TEA Partier Bryan Smith. Simpson has been targeted by the TEA party because he voted for the Wall Street bailout. Even though he did vote to defund Obamacare, voting for the bailout makes him too liberal for the TEA Party.
Defending Main Street is also watching others who have drawn the ire of Club For Growth, such as Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Shelley Moore Capito, a candidate for the Senate in West Virginia.
There are other more established conservative super PACs, which are looking for ways to defeat the TEA Party candidates such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads PAC, which is vetting candidates, hoping to field viable conservatives who are not as radical as those supported by the TEA Party groups.
Among the strongest allies these more mainstream conservative PACs have are members of the business community who are still reeling at the notion that there were those in the party who were willing to bring the nation to the brink of ruin in an attempt to move an immovable object, namely Obamacare. They never condoned that and realize what a dangerous move it was to take. They are no longer willing to support candidates who would even consider such an act.
They do face some daunting challenges, however. Tail Gunner Ted Cruz, for example, seems to be uninterested in whether or not the party approves of his behavior and has supporters from outside of Washington who share his lack of concern. They are also stymied as to how to deal with sitting Congressmen who know that gerrymandered districts make them virtually bullet proof.
It is still too early to tell which side in this internal battle will eventually come out on top and it is going to be a messy fight–but we can at least be assured that the mainstream GOP has come to its senses, and realizes now that the party must take control back from the extremists who have usurped power. We wish them well in their fight.