In one corner is the Republican Party. And in the other … the Republican Party.
The stakes could not be higher. The GOP has failed to get a majority of Americans to vote for its presidential candidates in five of the last six elections. And Tuesday night’s gubernatorial races — a win in New Jersey and loss in Virginia — sent confusing signals, at best, about where the party is headed.
The fight spilled out into the open in a race for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, with two Republicans the face of the party’s internal civil war.
Establishment-backed Bradley Byrne beat tea party candidate Dean Young in Tuesday’s bitter primary.
The Alabama race could be just a sample of what may come, and the battle within the GOP may get much more intense leading up to the 2014 elections.
That’s because some Republicans — especially what’s left of the moderate wing — don’t want a repeat of the 2010 and 2012 elections. The GOP first regained control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and maintained its control two years later.
Confused? Let’s explain.
2010 was the year of the Republican
In 2010, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House. They saw a fighting chance at stopping President Barack Obama’s expansive health care law and opposing government spending.
But tension started to rise within the party.
Many lawmakers were aligned with the burgeoning, ultra-conservative tea party movement. And in the years since — particularly after the federal government’s recent shutdown — those newcomers’ influence has frustrated and threatened the GOP’s more traditional wing.
Even more worrisome than a fight over ideas is that the split has led to real Election Day losses.
So now the moderate wing has decided to fight back.
‘No moderate counterbalance’
“There’s sort of an inquisition going on,” former Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio said of the tea party’s efforts. And he’s leading the charge against it.
“There is no moderate counterbalance … on the money side,” LaTourette, who retired from Congress in 2012 after frustration with partisanship and party infighting, told CNN in a recent interview. “We’ve been slow to the dance.”
Now he vows to fight with campaign dollars, dropping the 11th commandment Reagan made famous about Republicans not speaking ill of other Republicans.
As head of the Main Street Partnership, LaTourette is using his group’s campaign arm to fight some well-financed organizations such as Club for Growth and FreedomWorks that finance campaigns of ultra-conservative Republican candidates.
LaTourette’s goal is to raise up to $10 million to support as many as 10 Republican incumbents in the 2014 elections. That’s a big lift compared with the previous election when Main Street Partnership, formerly the Republican Main Street Partnership, raised a little more than $1 million.
LaTourette is not the only one who has decided to take this route.
The business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and even an official arm of the Republican Party have also decided to get involved.
Big business usually stands back and waits until a general election to flex its financial muscle. But it sent a strong signal recently by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Byrne in his Alabama congressional race. It was a rare move and a lot of money for such a primary.
And the National Republican Senate Committee “reserves the right” to get involved in primaries “if we ever thought it was necessary to win,” Brad Dayspring, the committee’s communications director, said.
In defense of ‘RINOs‘
LaTourette said the effort is to make the government run better, especially as scorecards and vote watchers keep track of every move Republicans make in Congress.
Too often, LaTourette said, Republicans are backed into positions to avoid being called a RINO — Republican in Name Only — and getting pummeled by fellow Republicans on the campaign trail.
“I suspect the 87 Republicans who cast the right vote to reopen the government are not going to be called traitors,” LaTourette said, referring to the recent 16-day partial government shutdown over Obamacare.
LaTourette promises to support those “traitors” financially — or at least a few of them.
He hosted a fund-raiser Tuesday night in New York, unveiling a new Web ad in which the narrator says, “The time to act is now. Help us fight to protect Main Street. …”
The ad plays controversial statements from some of the most fiery Republicans, including one-time Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri, Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware. The spot reminds donors that these candidates all have one thing in common: They lost to a Democrat.
Taking a shot at the birther movement, LaTourette said the only question he asks of potential candidates is “if Barack Obama was born in the United States. And if they say yes, then we’ll help them.”
One candidate LaTourette knows he’s going to help is Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho. The House veteran and chairman of an appropriations subcommittee faces a challenge from Bryan Smith, one of three candidates Club for Growth has already endorsed.
“If Smith defeats Simpson, a favorite of the Republican leadership and a member of the Appropriations Committee, it will send a shiver down the spine of the party establishment,” Club for Growth said about Smith’s candidacy on its website.
Targeted for defeat
Club for Growth has tried to defeat a cadre of Republicans considered too squishy for the party brand.
In 2012, it spent more than $600,000 in the Republican primary of Arizona’s 4th Congressional District against incumbent Paul Gosar, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. Gosar had a 90% rating on the Club for Growth’s issues scorecard, but the group backed an even more conservative challenger — Arizona state Sen. Ron Gould. However, Gosar ultimately won the primary and went on to win in November.
In all, Club for Growth spent $18 million in 2012, the Center for Responsive Politics says. Nearly $10 million was spent to defeat other Republicans. Mourdock was one of its candidates. He beat longtime Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana in the primary but ended up losing to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election.
“I refer to them as the Club for Democratic Growth,” LaTourette said about the group and its efforts.
Incumbent Wayne Gilchrest was another Republican defeated in a primary challenge. A moderate, he lost to Andy Harris, a Club for Growth-backed and financed candidate in the 2008 primary for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.
“Some very thoughtful, deep-thinking smart people have been voted out” because they didn’t completely align with tea party credentials, Gilchrest told CNN.
Gilchrest said he can’t afford to back LaTourette’s effort financially, but he “supports the idea 100%.”
LaTourette said the aggressive tactics used against Republicans means the party’s candidates have to spend large amounts of money against each other, making it more difficult to have enough cash to beat Democrats in general elections.
That issue doesn’t seem to faze Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller.
“We care only about passing pro-growth policies, and we don’t care about what some lobbyist thinks about us,” he said, referring to LaTourette.
“Come on in. The water’s warm,” Keller said.
GOP strategist John Feehery said the Republican Party is in a phase where it is taking “two steps back” before it can move forward.
“This is the biggest problem: Internal fights are wasting money,” he said.
And a lot more money is likely to be spent in this civil war.
ORIGINAL STORY FROM CNN]]>
(Washington, DC) – This week, Main Street Advocacy launched a new digtal ad campaign entitled “Senate Candidates Hall of Shame.” “The reason that Harry Reid and the Democrats control the U.S. Senate is thanks to the efforts of the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), President of Main Street Advocacy. “The far right’s attempts to purge the GOP of people they find to be ‘imperfect’ need to stop.”
The ad is the opening salvo in what will be a planned $8 million effort. “We didn’t start this war, for years now, groups like the Club for Growth and their allies have waged a vicious intra-party civil war that has cost the Republican Party control of the U.S. Senate,” continued LaTourette. “For the first time, there will be a group representing the governing wing of the Republican Party that will not only defend itself, but also push back.“]]>
WASHINGTON — Open warfare is breaking out among rival Republican groups, with one, Main Street Advocacy, set to start an ad campaign on Wednesday that blames conservative groups like theTea Party for the recent series of political losses in critical elections across the United States.
The ad cites what it calls a “Hall of Shame,” including Representative Todd Akin, Republican of Missouri, who lost his bid for the Senate last year, despite a Tea Party endorsement, after he said a “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.
It also pokes fun at conservative groups like the Club for Growth andFreedom Works — stamping the word “Defund” over their names — because they recently pushed Congress to shut down the federal government in an effort to block financing for President Obama’s health care program.
“We want our party back,” said former Representative Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio, who is leading Main Street Advocacy. “And we are going to do what it takes to accomplish that.”
The ad was previewed Tuesday during a fund-raiser in New York City hosted by Mr. LaTourette. Main Street Advocacy is trying to raise $8 million to help eight Republican moderates either defend their congressional seats in the 2014 midterm elections or to oust Tea Party-endorsed candidates already in office, like Representative Justin Amash of Michigan.
The 14-year-old Club for Growth has become an increasing force in Republican races. It spent $17 million in the last election cycle to help select extremely conservative candidates — including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas — in congressional races that Republicans were likely to win.
The Club for Growth opened the offensive against moderate Republicans earlier this year with a website it calls Primary My Congressman! The site lists 10 House Republicans it calls RINOs (Republican in Name Only) that it wants to see replaced by more conservative party members. Some are the same Republicans, like Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, that Main Street Advocacy is preparing to defend.
Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, said that Mr. LaTourette’s group was wasting its money going after a rival political action committee. Mr. LaTourette, he added, has been working as a lobbyist since he left Congress and so now is trying to help corporate America reassert its control over Congress.
“They can attack the Club all they want, and I hope they spend their money doing so,” Mr. Keller said. “We look forward to adding to the ranks of pro-growth conservatives in Congress next year.” He added that the Club had not endorsed all the candidates featured in the ad.
The challenge for Main Street Advocacy, the group’s organizers said, is to build a network of moderate Republicans who are as motivated and politically active as Tea Party enthusiasts have been since Mr. Obama was elected to his first term.
Party primary results are often difficult for pollsters to predict because the outcomes largely depend on who turns out to vote, and Mr. LaTourette acknowledged that the most conservative candidates had traditionally had much more reliable supporters.
“We are behind the curve with our more conservative counterparts,” Mr. LaTourette said. “They have built grass-roots networks and databases of conservative voters. That is part of this project.”
Mr. LaTourette stepped down this year, declaring he was fed up with the confrontational tone of his party and at how partisan Congress had become.
Main Street Advocacy has not yet formally picked the eight or so Republican candidates it will spend its money on next year. Besides Mr. Kinzinger and a Republican challenger to Mr. Amash, other possibilities include Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho and Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who is vying for a Senate seat.]]>
The tables are turning on the tea party, at least in Michigan.
For the past two election cycles, tea party candidates have unseated congressional incumbents of both parties: Democrats who backed Obamacare and other big spending programs and Republicans who didn’t hew close enough to conservative ideology.
Now, two of those tea party upstarts — Kerry Bentivolio in Oakland County and Justin Amash in Grand Rapids — are the target of significant and very well-funded challenges from mainstream Republicans.
In the 11th District, Bentivolio, the accidental congressman the party never wanted to send to Washington in the first place, is targeted by businessman Dave Trott.
Trott is willing to spend $2 million or more on the race; Bentivolio has just $42,000 on hand, with more than $100,000 in debt from the 2012 campaign.
Out west, rising libertarian star Amash faces a likely challenge from another businessman, Brian Ellis. Like Bentivolio, Amash is short on funds, with just $164,000 in his account.
Ellis, meanwhile, has been promised all the money he’ll need from “a group of people who can give at robust levels,” according to one prominent west Michigan executive. Translation: The leading business and political names in Grand Rapids are backing Ellis’ bid, which he’s expected to announce formally next month.
What these two races have in common is Republican incumbents who are out of sync with their districts; they’re both more radical than their traditionally conservative constituents.
“It’s an early symbol of things to come, as party regulars worry about the effectivenss of these tea party incumbents and their ability to defend their seats from Democrats,” says Saul Anuzis, former Michigan state GOP chair.
Amash is a Ron Paul devotee, an isolationist and an ideological purist. He voted no on the Keystone Pipeline and refused to support a resolution condemning Iran. After he voted against House Speaker John Boehner last winter, he was hauled to the woodshed by some of the most influential Republicans in his district. It didn’t do much good.
Grand Rapids is the very symbol of button-down Republicanism. Amash’s anti-government “vote no” fervor doesn’t play as well there as it does in national libertarian circles, where the congressman is hailed as the heir apparent to the retired Rep. Paul.
Bentivolio has a somewhat different problem. His votes have mostly followed the party’s leadership, which is why Boehner did a fundraiser for him this summer. But Bentivolio stumbled into Congress when former Rep. Thad McCotter bungled his nominating petitions, leaving no other Republican on the ballot in 2012. The party launched a write-in campaign that depicted him as Krazy Kerry, the wild-eyed reindeer rancher.
He won anyway, and beat an equally undistinguished Democrat in the general election. In both these races, the incumbents in 2014 won’t enjoy the fundraising advantage that typically comes with holding the office. The big money inside the district is already committed to their opponents.
They may get an outside boost from Paulites and other far right groups. But both start the election cycle as underfunded underdogs. If they lose, it will mark a major setback for the tea party in Michigan.]]>
There has been a lot of talk in both Democratic and Republican circles about whetherHouse Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can lead his caucus. Incidents such as the defeat of the farm bill on the House floor have been cited to support this narrative.
But much of the blame for Washington failures has been mislaid.
The focus on Boehner has been more intense because House Democrats have abdicated any meaningful role in passing legislation. Few bills are able to garner Democratic support, often not because of policy differences but because House Democratic leaders have decided they would rather wash their hands of responsibility for governing and, instead, focus on winning back the majority.
READ THE REST HERE]]>
On Monday, the President of the Club for Growth Political Action Committee, former Representative Chris Chocola, penned a piece for the Times-News laying out the case for why he believes it is time to replace Congressman Mike Simpson. The truth is that it shouldn’t be up to Chris Chocola and his big-moneyed friends at the Club for Growth to decide who represents Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District — it ought to be up the Idahoans who actually live in that district.
Unlike Congressman Chocola and his wealthy buddies at the Club for Growth, Mike Simpson was born and raised in Idaho, and has been elected and re-elected by the people of the 2nd District eight times to represent them in Washington. He answers to them at the ballot box every two years — and to date those voters have continued to trust his leadership.
This time, however, things will be different. The Club for Growth is promising to pour tons of outside cash into this race in an effort to buy this election — and they will stop at nothing to get there way.
The Club for Growth specializes in smear campaigns, they routinely distort the records of the Republicans they oppose, fail to tell the truth about their own organization and rely on their wealthy donors to bigfoot Republican primaries and bully Republicans in Congress. The scorecard they the love to tout is phonier than a three-dollar bill.
Their involvement in Idaho is par for the course. My former colleague, Congressman Chocola, neglects to mention in his opinion piece that many of the positions take by Mike Simpson that his organization has criticized him for are the exact same positions taken by Congressman Chocola when he was in Congress.
From voting for Medicare expansion, to voting for increased transportation spending, to votes to increase the debt limit, to raising the federal minimum wage, there are literally dozens of examples of the rank hypocrisy of Chocola and the Club for Growth.
Hypocrisy is nothing new for the Club for Growth. While claiming to be the champions of free markets and the beacons of ideological purity, the truth is that the Club for Growth’s Board is comprised of wealthy individuals who have financially supported Democrats, advocated for the individual mandate that is central to Obamacare, own or operate businesses that have sucked up millions in earmarks, and criticize members for voting the exact same way as their own President did.
Main Street Advocacy, the organization that I head, has pledged to match the Club for Growth dollar for dollar. For every dollar the Club spends distorting the facts, we will spend a dollar setting them straight. Members of Congress are elected by the men and women who live in their districts, their loyalty and responsibility is to those constituents not to the Club for Growth.
The voters of Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District deserve a fair debate of ideas, of records, of vision by the candidates vying to represent them in Washington, D.C. The process should not be subverted and corrupted by big money special interests like those at the Club for Growth.
The money spent by Main Street Advocacy will level the playing field and expose the truth about those who seek to buy and sell members of Congress.
I wish that Main Street Advocacy was not necessary, I wish that instead of spending money in primary fights, that we could spend money looking to expand our majority in the House and working to recapture the Senate. Unfortunately, because of groups like the Club for Growth and others, the efforts of Main Street Advocacy are necessary.
The days of the special interests bigfooting Republican primaries and nominating candidates like Christine “I’m Not a Witch” O’Donnell and Todd “legitimate rape” Akin are over. These special interests will no longer have a free hand to manipulate the process and destroy the Republican Party.
We don’t pretend to know who the people of Idaho who should send to Washington to represent them. At the end of the day, we trust the people of Idaho to make that judgment for themselves. Whether the voters of the 2nd District decide to send Mike Simpson back for a 9th term or whether they decide to go with someone new, that decision is theirs and their alone — and we will fight like hell to make sure they have the chance to make that call free from the manipulation of outside special interest groups like the Club for Growth.
Steve LaTourette is a Republican, a former House Representative for Ohio and the President of Main Street Advocacy.]]>
Main Street Advocacy and its allied super PAC, Defending Main Street, will take a step forward after playing a minimal role in recent elections. The move comes in direct response to the growing influence of conservative outside groups like the Club for Growth, which the head of Main Street denounced Tuesday as a “cancer” on the GOP.
It also comes as more conservative members of the House and Senate continue to concern Republican leaders as they seek cohesion in their party.
“The Club for Growth is homogenizing the Republican Party,” Snowe said in an interview with Post Politics. “The Republican Party is going to have to mature.”
The head of the Main Street organization, former congressman Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), said it has already raised $2.5 million toward its goal and that he and Snowe will barnstorm the country together to raise the rest. The group will make expenditures from both its nonprofit issue advocacy arm and its super PAC, allowing donors to contribute to either (nonprofit donors do not need to be disclosed).
But even LaTourette acknowledged that the money and enthusiasm in many of these primaries is with the Club and its allies, which include Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
“Eight million dollars isn’t going to change the country,” LaTourette said. “This is sort of a baby step that we’re beginning with the try to level the playing field.”
Tensions between Main Street — former known as the Republican Main Street Partnership — and the Club for Growth festered over the last week following the Club’s endorsement of Rep. Mike Simpson’s (R-Idaho) primary challenger, attorney Bryan Smith.
Simpson, like LaTourette, is a GOP moderate and ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner has in recent months struggled to deal with an unruly Republican conference — many members of which were elected with the help of the tea party and groups like the Club for Growth.
LaTourette said GOP primary voters in a conservative district like Simpson’s have a right to nominate someone else, but he said that groups like the Club for Growth have played an outsized role in such races, leaving moderates with little ammunition to fight back.
He also said the Club has crafted a fraudulent reputation as a grassroots organization.
“If this was some broad-based populist movement, I get that,” LaTourette said. “But if you peel back the onion, the Club for Growth is really five or six guys that have a lot of money and bigfoot the Republican primaries.”
The Club on Tuesday hit back at LaTourette, pointing out the amount of money Simpson has raised from another small group of influential players — political action committees.
“It’s a joke for Mike Simpson and his allies to cry foul on outside groups supporting his conservative challenger; 64 percent of Mike Simpson’s campaign contributions have come from Washington PACs, not the people of Idaho,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller. “Mike Simpson is the same congressman who rakes in millions from special interests that he regulates, all while voting to raise his own pay nine times and spending thousands on lavish events at Washington D.C. social clubs.”
LaTourette said his group will seek to play in a limited number of races where it can have a bigger influence. He mentioned potential Club for Growth targets including Senate candidate Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) — who has been involved with the group — and Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), along with Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio). Joyce holds the seat LaTourette retired from last year.
LaTourette acknowledged his group has to walk a fine line in some of these races, as its involvement could lead candidates to be tagged as RINOs — Republicans In Name Only. Another recently launched group seeking more electable GOP candidates, Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project, has dealt with similar accusations that it is anti-conservative.
“Some members might have the opinion, ‘Gosh, if these guys get involved I’ll be known as a friend of the RINOs,’” LaTourette said. “That’s something we’ll have to engage on a race-by-race basis.”
The Club has launched a Web site at PrimaryMyCongressman.com to identify which members its supporters think should be unseated. Simpson was its first announced target.
Main Street, meanwhile, is launching its own Web site at ClubforDemocraticGrowth.com. The Club’s critics have often used the nickname for the group, noting that some of its nominees wound up losing winnable races or that more moderate candidates emerged bruised and battered from primaries against Club-backed candidates.
The most cited examples include 2010 Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle and 2012 Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock, who both lost after beating establishment candidates. GOP establishment types also blame the Club for hurting once-popular former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson in his primary last year. Thompson narrowly won his party’s nomination but eventually lost to Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) in the general election.
“It’s a fact that the Club for Growth supported those candidates when almost no one else did,” Club President Chris Chocola said in a December interview with Politico. “People want to throw out Angle and Mourdock; that’s fine. We supported those candidates. And they lost.”
GOP leaders have also struggled with Club-backed Republicans once they’ve joined Congress, including Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.). These members often vote against leaders on big-ticket items, taking the same positions urged by groups like the Club and Heritage Action.
The Club notes that the vast majority of its candidates performed just fine in the general election and that it helped Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) win their seats in recent years.
LaTourette said Republicans need to focus on expanding their appeal rather than closing ranks around conservatives and having litmus tests for their congressional incumbents.
“You can’t wake up and go into an election and say, ‘Okay, let’s see who’s voting for us? Angry white guys in their 50s are voting for us. Who’s not voting for us? African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, women.’” LaTourette said. “It makes it pretty tough to win a national election if you’re writing off that chunk of the electorate.”]]>
(Washington, DC) – Today, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), released the following statement on behalf of the Main Street Advocacy Fund:
“Over the last few days, there has been a lot of talk about the consequences for Republican Senators and members of the House if they vote for any ‘grand bargain’ that helps us avoid the impending fiscal cliff and begins to put us on a path to fiscal solvency.
“The saber-rattling by the special interests is intended to intimidate members into not doing what they know is in the best interest of the people they represent. We want those members to know that we will stand with them and defend them if they show the political courage necessary to avert the looming fiscal crisis we are facing.
“If any of these ridiculous threats about well-funded primary challenges to members who have the courage to put their country first actually occurs – such challenges will be met dollar for dollar.
“The most important pledges a member of Congress takes are the Oath of Office, promising to support and defend our Constitution, and the pledge that is foundational to our representative style of government – to do what is in the best interests of the men and women who elected them. They should be rewarded, not punished, for honoring and respecting these pledges.”