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GOP's Crist Endorsements Anger Conservatives

5 years ago
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There has long been tension between Republican leaders and movement conservatives, but efforts to elect Republicans in 2010 are doing nothing to bring the sides together.

When Senator Arlen Specter switched parties, several prominent Republican leaders immediately urged Governor Tom Ridge, a Republican moderate, to run. It seems they weren't content to support the more conservative former Congressman Pat Toomey -- who was already in the race.

Even now, many Republicans are searching for a moderate who is capable of winning the primary. Despite polling that shows him competitive -- and the fact that Toomey represented a Democratic-leaning district in Congress -- Republican leaders seem convinced a conservative cannot win in Pennsylvania.

In Florida, conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio was not a good enough candidate to satisfy GOP insiders, who yesterday successfully wooed Governor Charlie Crist into running for the U.S. Senate (to replace the retiring Mel Martinez). NRSC Chairman John Cornyn and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately endorsed Crist (of course, these are the same folks who had endorsed Specter).

Crist is seen as a liberal Republican on a variety of issues, including the environment and business. As National Review's John Miller once said of Crist: "He decided to give John Edwards a run for his money for the year's most flamboyantly anti-business rhetoric."

Like Toomey, Rubio plans to run a tough race, and immediately welcomed Crist yesterday into the campaign by launching a video showing Crist's close ties with President Obama.

To be sure, Toomey and Rubio will both benefit, in some ways, from the conservative backlash against GOP primary intervention. Conservative bloggers are predictably upset about the party support the moderates have received -- especially in the case of Crist.

In a post titled, "Not one dime to the NRSC," RedState's Erick Erickson wrote, "I can kind of understand them getting behind Specter. Both he and Chaffee were incumbents. But getting behind Crist in the Florida primary is wholly unacceptable ..."

National Review's Jim Geraghty hit the nail on the head when he asked, "... how many Republicans have ever said, "Thank goodness the NRSC intervened in that primary"?

And fellow NRO blogger David Freddoso wrote: "As demonstrated here and by their completely unnecessary (and not necessarily correct) dissing of Pat Toomey's chances in Pennsylvania, the Senate establishment wants to pre-determine as many outcomes as possible."

And Hot Air's Ed Morrissey notes,
It smacks of a deal cut to get Crist to skip a re-election campaign to go after the Senate seat. While Crist's popularity is an asset, Crist's positions on issues are going to give conservatives and even moderates some angst in the party. Crist openly supported the Porkulus plan, which would have put him with Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins as the only Republicans in Congress who did. Cornyn himself fought against Porkulus. So why is the NRSC endorsing Crist over Marco Rubio 15 months ahead of the primary?
... The stage is now set for conservatives and conservative bloggers to spend the next months rallying around conservative candidates, while "leaders" like Cornyn and McConnell -- and squishy writers like David Frum -- will continue to recruit and push liberal-to-moderate Republicans like Crist and Ridge.

Barack Obama's victory occurred when the Democratic Party and the liberal blogosphere (which has its own tension, to be sure), settled on a general direction. Conversely, GOP leaders seem intent on continually angering conservative bloggers.

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