It took a tea-party insurrection that disabled the federal government and wrecked the Republican brand, but after months of handwringing, establishment Republicans are preparing to attack ultraconservative ideologues across red America.
From Alabama to Alaska, the center-right, business-oriented wing of the Republican Party is gearing up for a series of skirmishes that it hopes can prevent the 2014 midterm election from turning into another missed opportunity. This will not be a coordinated operation. It will be messy, ugly, and prone to backfiring. And if the comeback succeeds, it will be in fits and starts, most likely culminating in the selection of a presidential nominee in 2016.
“Hopefully we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them,” said former Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio, whose new political group, Defending Main Street, aims to raise $8 million to fend off tea-party challenges against more mainstream Republican incumbents. “We’re going to be very aggressive and we’re going to get in their faces.”
The caterwauling over the GOP brand ramped up after President Obama’s reelection and a handful of setbacks in the Senate before hitting full screech as the country hurtled toward default. For some Republicans, the time for soul-searching is over. “This is a battle we have to fight,” said GOP consultant John Feehery, who has advised top Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. “We can’t just lie down and let this happen.”
Tactics being discussed among Republican strategists, donors, and party leaders include running attack ads against tea-party candidates for Congress; overthrowing Ron Paul’s libertarian acolytes dominating the Iowa and Minnesota state parties; promoting open primaries over nominating conventions, which can produce Republican hard-liners such as Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and shutdown-instigator Mike Lee of Utah; and countering political juggernauts Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks that target Republican incumbents who have consorted with Democrats.
There isn’t anything better in politics than a bloody civil war for the heart and soul of a party. This one will be the grassroots vs. the establishment.
I’ll be rooting for the grassroots.