Campaign 2010, Politics

Christine O’Donnell’s Pyrrhic Victory

So, you managed to get Christine O’Donnell the Republican nomination. Which means that the DE Senate seat she’s running for will go to the Democrats.

If you believe that we need to end the disastrous policies of the Obama Administration, reduce spending, and stop government overreach, then the best way of doing that is to see the Democratic majority in Congress go away.

And that means being strategic about selecting candidates.

I’m sorry, but with due respect to Ms. O’Donnell, she doesn’t have a shot in hell of winning. Her negatives are through the roof, she has no relevant experience, and other than saying the right things to conservatives, she’s got little going for her. Her record is, to be blunt, atrocious. Her record on her own finances should be sufficient to disqualify her—the Democratic attack ads practically write themselves. She will lose to Chris Coons, and she will lose by double digits. One can come up with all sorts of scenarios in which that doesn’t happen, but none of them are remotely likely.

The Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Sen. Jim DeMint have pissed away a very winnable Senate seat. That means that the chances of GOP takeover of the Senate have gone from a relative longshot to roughly nil.

Yes, it’s fine to prefer the more conservative of two candidates. But that must be balanced with the understanding that if the more conservative candidate has no shot at actually winning, the effect of voting for that candidate is the same as voting for the Democrat.

In short, by voting for Christine O’Donnell, the conservative, the Tea Party has voter for Chris Coons, the radical left-wing liberal.

So far, this strategy has turned two sure-fire GOP pickups into two likely GOP losses. We could have picked off Harry Reid this year, but now the Nevada Senate race is a toss-up at best. We could have picked up a seat in Delaware, but that’s not going to happen.

Politics isn’t about being ideologically pure, it’s about being ideologically pragmatic. You don’t win a game of football by trying to throw Hail Mary passes every play, you win by moving the ball. Mike Castle may have been a squish, but he would have helped us move the ball in a more conservative direction. And when we had built up enough strength, found an acceptable conservative candidate, then it would have been a smart time to replace Castle.

The Tea Parties need to learn from the netroots, as painful as it is to write that. In 2006 and 2008, the netroots endorsed a whole slew of right-wing Democrats. Was Jon Tester a committed left-wing liberal? No. But he could, and did, win in a conservative state. Same with Jim Webb in Virginia—and many issues he could be considered a DINO. But the netroots supported him. When the netroots went for ideological purity above all (see Ned Lamont versus Joe Lieberman), they lost.

In fact, see Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Sen. Brown is conservative on many issues, but is not a perfect conservative. But the Tea Party still supported him, because he was the best alternative. Sen. Brown is as conservative a candidate as can win in Massachusetts, and had the Tea Party ousted him with some fire-breathing conservative stalwart, we’d be talking about Sen. Martha Coakley right now.

The goal should be to elect as conservative a candidate as possible that can still win. Christine O’Donnell may be conservative, but she simply cannot win the Delaware Senate race. Instead of moving the Senate in a more conservative direction, the Tea Parties have torpedoed the chances of a GOP takeover of the Senate.

No doubt some principled conservatives are celebrating what they see as a victory tonight. But for principled conservatism, it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Addendum: At the same time, let no one think I’m a fan of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). So far this cycle they have managed to back several losers, including turncoats Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist. The goal is to elect the most conservative candidate likely to win. And sometimes a conservative challenger like Pat Toomey or Marco Rubio can win. The NRSC is the flip-side of the Tea Parties in this regard, and neither side can truly claim superiority over the other. It isn’t just about electability, and it isn’t just about ideology. It’s about selecting the candidate with the right mix of both for the race. Neither side really seems to understand this principle.

Update: Castle won’t endorse O’Donnell. Mike Castle’s political career is likely over—he’s 70 years old. He can choose to go out with grace and dignity, or end a long career on a sour note. It is sad to see him choose the latter. Yes, Ms. O’Donnell is a terrible candidate, but she is the candidate that the voters chose. Rep. Castle should show respect to that choice and do what he can to help O’Donnell win, even if that outcome is unlikely.

Campaign 2010, Politics

A Few Words On The Senate

Nate Silver is at his new digs over at The New York Times, and he has his forecast for this year’s Senatorial races. The short version: say hello to 6-7 new GOP Senators: and that doesn’t include the possibility of pickups in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, etc.

Silver also finds that the possibility of a Republican Senate takeover is not that far off:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is running for the Senate as an independent, both wins his race and decides to caucus with them.

In addition, there is an 11 percent chance that Democrats will lose a total of nine seats, which would leave them with 50 votes, making them vulnerable to a defection to the Republican Party by a centrist like Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut or Ben Nelson of Nebraska. On average, over the model’s 100,000 simulation runs, the Democrats are projected to lose a net of six and a half Senate seats, which would leave them with 52 or 53 senators. (Even though the G.O.P. primary in Alaska remains too close to call, that outcome is unlikely to alter the model.)

I wouldn’t go so far as to predict that the GOP retakes the Senate this cycle: while a 20% chance is better than none, it’s not likely. But some of the polls in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Washington show a possibility of the GOP taking those seats—and if that happens, then it’s sayonara to Democratic control of Congress.

All the signs point to this being a “wave” election—and even a 7-seat loss is more than typical for a midterm election. But if this wave is as big as it could be, then the Democrats are in deep trouble. Their House majority is likely to fall, and if they lose the Senate, Obama becomes a lame duck.

In the end, gridlock is the best thing that could happen to this country. If no major bills can be passed, much of the uncertainty that’s killing the markets will be lifted. If businesses can be safe in knowing that there won’t be a major regulatory overhaul (like cap-and-trade/tax) they will be more likely to start expanding again. Divided government helped the US in the early 1990s, and while Barack Obama isn’t the triangulating centrist that Bill Clinton was, a Republican Congress will at least curb some of Obama’s excesses.


Specter’s Pyrrhic Self-Preservation

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is now officially becoming a Democrat. There isn’t much of a shock to this—Specter has always been an erstwhile Republican, and he would have lost in the Pennsylvania GOP primary to Pat Toomey. Specter’s argument that somehow the GOP has moved too far to the right for his liking is really just political cover—this is all about his own political self-preservation.

The problem for Specter is that there’s a good chance that he won’t win the Democratic primary. As NRO’s Jim Geraghty notes, why would the Democrats want a former Republican with a lifetime ACU rating in the 40s who opposes the union-backed “Employee Free Choice Act” and has ties with President Bush? Pennsylvania Democrats don’t need Arlen Specter nearly as much as Arlen Specter needs Pennsylvania Democrats.

The GOP should have gotten rid of Specter in 2004 when they had the chance. Specter’s claim that the GOP has moved too far to the right is based largely on his vote on the stimulus bill—which is opposed by far more than just Republicans. The GOP needs to remake its image, and jettisoning the old guard is probably better in the long run. What is needed now is a party that is more self-confident in their ideology and in their policies. The GOP right now is at war with “moderates” who barely identify with Republican principles and hard-liners who have failed to identify with the American people. That’s not a good position for a party to be in, especially not with a Democratic Congress and a President who could be caught on national TV greedily consuming a mewling infant and still get a 60% approval rating.

The GOP needs to get its act together and fast. Doing so without excess baggage is probably better over the long term, even if it is a huge problem over the short term. Specter was not the sort of person who could motivate the GOP base or the American people. His party switch hurts the Republicans in the short term, to be sure. But it is quite possible than even this Hail Mary play won’t be enough for Specter to keep his political career afloat.

Campaign 2008, Politics

The Minnesota Poll Strikes Again

If you believe the latest Star-Tribune poll, Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by over 10%.

If you believe that, I also have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

At PowerLine, Scott Johnson takes a sharp look at the poll and a contemporaneous SurveyUSA poll showing Coleman with a modest lead. The Minnesota Poll dramatically undersampled Republicans and oversampled Democrats. Given that Franken couldn’t beat 75% in a primary against an unknown opponent, not even Dean Barkley will be able to save him. Coleman’s negative ads are effective because they simply show the truth about Al Franken: that he’s a partisan bomb-thrower. The media is furious, but the voters deserve the truth about Franken’s propensity for violent outbursts.

Sen. Coleman has been a strong voice for Minnesota. He is not the unthinking partisan that the Minnesota left-wing tries to paint him as being. He is a thoughtful moderate running against an ideological extremist—and he will win. Al Franken is the antithesis of “Minnesota Nice,” and his intemperance and propensity to fly off the handle are character traits that are completely wrong for a deliberative body like the Senate.

Campaign 2008, Minnesota Politics, Politics

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

Like 2006, this is a Democratic year. The GOP brand is more damaged than in has been in ages. President Bush has the approval rating usually reserved for moldy liverwurst. The economy is doing poorly.

But at least one Republican has reason to cheer. The Minnesota DFL has nominated Al Franken to be their candidate for the U.S. Senate. That is good news for Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Franken, the unfunny comedian “satirist” is the sort of person who will do quite well in the ideologically homogenous bastions of Twin Cities leftism, but will go over like a fart in church elsewhere. Minnesota already made a mockery of the political process once—and at least Gov. Ventura had some executive experience as mayor of a Twin Cities suburb. Franken cannot even claim that. We don’t need a “satirist” in the Senate—in truth it’s already a joke—what we need is a responsible adult to represent the interests of Minnesota.

Sen. Coleman is not a conservative ideologue by any means, and some conservatives dislike him for that. However, he has the right instincts, he has shown a willingness to engage in unpopular but necessary political battles such as UN reform, and he has demonstrated an appropriately Senatorial level of intellectual curiosity. I had the chance to hear him speak before an intimate audience a few months ago, and even some of my liberal friends (one of whom asked him a rather tough question that he answered forthrightly) came away impressed.

This may be a Democratic year, but it is not so Democratic that the DFL can put just anyone into consideration. Against a moderate, thoughtful Republican like Sen. Coleman, the thin resume and ideological extremism of Al Franken will quickly become grating. That doesn’t mean that the Senator doesn’t have a fight on his hands, but it is a fight that can be won.


Lott Out

Sen. Trent Lott is stepping down at the end of the year.

This is probably good news for the GOP at large. What the Republican Party so desperately needs is a break from the status quo. Sen. Lott, for all his service, represented the kind of Beltway politics that are causing the GOP to lose both its principles and its electoral prospects. His vigorous defense of Strom Thurmond caused him to lose credibility, but his vigorous defense of pork-barrel spending and earmarks were nearly as bad.

The Republican Party must be a party of governmental reform. It’s much harder to do that when someone like Trent Lott is part of the GOP leadership. Sen. Lott deserves credit for his years of service, but it’s time for a new face in that position.