Democratic candidates and upstart Republicans are officially on notice: The GOP establishment wants control of Congress, and it’s ready for a mid-term election fight.
Two recent primary elections – in North Carolina and Ohio – saw establishment Republicans win the right to represent the GOP in the general election, despite a strong push by other conservative groups, including the Tea Party.
In Ohio, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, managed to score an easy victory in the state’s Republican primary, even though he’s immensely unpopular within his own party. And in North Carolina, the Karl Rove-backed Super PAC, American Crossroads, spent $1.6 million on TV ads just to ensure that its guy – North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis – would win the primary.
As Slate’s political reporter, David Weigel, wrote, “This is basically what Karl Rove had told donors he’d do last year, and hey, it’s working.”
Plenty of Drama in the Republican Party
According to a recent USA Today/Pew Research Center poll, Republicans currently own a four-point lead with just about six months to go until Election Day.
That’s very important because, according to USA Today, Democrats usually fare better among registered voters, while Republicans typically do better among those who actually pull the lever – meaning an early lead for Republicans could portend the final outcome.
All in all, early signs point to a sweeping victory by the political elites in the Republican Party.
In Ohio (the less compelling of the two primary elections thus far), two Tea Party challengers – Eric Gurr and J.D. Winteregg – had designs on Boehner’s seat, but failed to gain traction with Republican voters. Boehner’s relatively easy victory (he won by 47 points) is even more impressive given that numerous Tea Party groups campaigned in support of Boehner’s challengers, and the Tea Party Leadership Fund spent more than a quarter of a million dollars trying to dethrone the Speaker.
In North Carolina, which featured a much closer race than Ohio, Tillis used gobs of GOP cash and some support from GOP heavyweights (like Mitt Romney) to make up for his abysmal name recognition (16% statewide, according to Slate).
Following his narrow victory, Tillis will face off against first-term Senator Kay Hagan. As Floyd wrote in January, Kay Hagan rode Obama’s coattails into office in 2008, but she’ll face a much tougher test this time around. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, Americans for Prosperity (a conservative political advocacy group) has already spent $7.2 million attacking Hagan ahead of the general election.
As the rest of the primaries take place, look for the GOP establishment to follow a similar playbook. It’s keeping all eyes on the prize – the six seats needed to take control of the U.S. Senate – and GOP leaders and supporters are prepared to throw everything behind the candidates they think can win on Election Day.
In Pursuit of the Truth,