What do you get when you cross a president with an underwater approval rating with an opposition party with an even lower approval rating?
Why, the 2014 election cycle, of course. It has the potential to be a watershed moment in the future of the American political landscape because, for the first time in the history of the movement, conservatives are attempting to fight a two-front war. Mounting unprecedented challenges to GOP establishment figures in primaries, while at the same time capitalize on the anti-Obama sentiment in the country to flip the U.S. Senate from Democrat to Republican control this fall.
But that begs the question: Once the squishy records of all these Republican establishment incumbents are laid bare in these primaries for the base to finally see, can that base still be rallied to support said squish this fall if they can’t beat him in a primary? Especially, since one of the rationales for launching these primary assaults on the GOP establishment is their candidates don’t offer voters a stark ideological contrast from the Democrats, but instead represent the “fraternal order of Republicans” Ronald Reagan used to bemoan.
Look at Mississippi, where conservative dissension over the establishment playing the race card against tea party champion Chris McDaniel in the U.S. Senate run-off there shows no signs of waning. Now the FEC is involved, and enterprising online muckrakers are using social media to blow the lid off a story the ruling class media has largely preferred to ignore. Mr. McDaniel won the majority of Republican voters in that run-off by 8 points, and polls show an overwhelming majority of that majority Republican vote isn’t happy about having the establishment basically hijack their primary by race-baiting Democrat voters to save Sen. Thad Cochran. As a result, plenty of McDaniel voters are currently telling pollsters they won’t support Mr. Cochran this fall, and would support Mr. McDaniel as a write-in or third party candidate come November.
Lest you think the rancor in Mississippi is an isolated incident. Over the weekend in my home state of Iowa, another prominent Republican fired a shot across the establishment’s bow.
Popular State Sen. Brad Zaun was the first place finisher in the 3rd Congressional District Primary on June 3, but failed to clear the 35 percent threshold necessary to win outright. Then Mr. Zaun lost a close vote at a nominating convention stacked with pro-establishment delegates to David Young, a former aide to Sen. Charles Grassley. Mr. Young finished a measly fifth in the primary, despite raising the second-most amount of money. On July 4, Mr. Zaun posted on his Facebook wall that plenty of his supporters want him to run as an independent this fall, and he is considering it. Almost 200 comments later, the responses were split 50-50 on whether Mr. Zaun should do something that would’ve had you excommunicated from the conservative tribe just a few years ago.
Then there’s Kentucky, where almost 126,000 conservatives voted for Matt Bevin instead of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell in a hotly-contested primary on May 20. Mr. Bevin still hasn’t endorsed Mr. McConnell, who is virtually dead-locked with Democrat challenger Allison Grimes in the current Real Clear Politics polling average. My nationally-syndicated radio show airs live for three hours each night in Louisville, and I’ve heard from more than one Bevin supporter who hopes Mr. McConnell loses this fall because “it would be easier to beat Grimes in six years than unseat an entrenched incumbent like McConnell in a primary.”
Again, that kind of talk would’ve been heresy just a few years ago. Now it’s increasingly more commonplace in a grassroots fed up with a D.C. that doesn’t listen. Will Democrats, who face bleak prospects this fall, be able to take advantage of a fracturing GOP to defy the odds? To get the answer, I asked several top conservative leaders around the country if it’s possible for conservatives to hold both Republicans and Democrats accountable simultaneously?
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