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Posts Tagged ‘tea party’
August 27th, 2014 at 6:59 pm
IRS Erased Lois Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER Investigation Began

It’s been a rough five days for the Internal Revenue Service.

Last Friday attorneys at Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, said Department of Justice lawyers revealed a second back-up system that stores all government emails.

Presumably, this includes the emails to and from former IRS manager Lois Lerner’s account; emails that are sought by investigators on the House Oversight Committee because of Lerner’s connection to the potentially illegal targeting of conservative advocacy groups.

If true – DOJ officials are disputing Judicial Watch’s account of the conversation – this casts a serious shadow on the IRS’s credibility, since Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress under oath that the emails had been lost in a hard drive crash.

However many back-up systems there are – and whether Koskinen knew the number – the Commissioner has another integrity crisis brewing.

“Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in a declaration, part of a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch against the IRS, that [Lois Lerner’s] BlackBerry was ‘removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012,” reports Fox News.

The date is significant because congressional staff members had already interviewed Lerner about her role in the targeting operation. Deleting messages from her government-owned smartphone after that meeting – but before preserving the contents– looks like a thinly veiled attempt to destroy evidence.

The House Oversight Committee will have its hands full when Congress returns from its August recess.

Expect to see some high-profile hearings.

August 26th, 2014 at 7:57 pm
DOJ: We Have Lois Lerner’s “Lost” Emails

Apparently, you can lie to Congress but not to Judicial Watch.

The conservative watchdog organization is publicizing an admission by the Department of Justice that government officials can access emails reportedly lost in a hard drive crash.

The messages – correspondence to and from former IRS manager Lois Lerner – have been sought by congressional investigators seeking more information about the agency’s targeting of conservative advocacy groups filing for tax-exempt status.

In sworn testimony, IRS officials have told members of Congress that thousands of emails sent from Lerner’s government account could not be retrieved because a back-up system had also been erased.

But now attorneys at the DOJ are singing a different tune.

“Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Justice Department lawyers informed him that the federal government keeps a back-up copy of every email and record in the event of a government-wide catastrophe,” reports the Washington Examiner.

That includes Lerner’s IRS emails.

But don’t expect them to be produced anytime soon. The DOJ is claiming that the newly revealed back-up system would be “too onerous to search,” but did say that Treasury Department inspectors are looking into it.

While the litigators wrangle, we’re left with yet more evidence that the Obama administration doesn’t mind playing fast and loose with the truth – even under oath.

The House of Representatives already voted back in May to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify; making her the second administration official after Attorney General Eric Holder to receive such a dishonor.

If it’s true that top IRS brass lied under oath to Congress about the whereabouts of Lerner’s potentially damaging emails, one wonders what message House leadership would send to this latest act of executive defiance.

May 28th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Texas Tea Party Knocks Off GOP Lt. Gov. in Run-Off

It’s been a tough two years for outgoing Texas Republican Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. First, he lost a bitter U.S. Senate primary fight to Ted Cruz in 2012, and yesterday he was blown out 64-36 percent in a run-off election to maintain his current job. After more than a decade in statewide office, the multi-millionaire Dewhurst is out on the political streets.

None of this was inevitable. Dewhurst was an early favorite in his matchups with Cruz and Patrick; the latter currently serving as a State Senator and formerly as a conservative radio show host. Not long ago Dewhurst was trying to shore up his conservative bona fides by shepherding a Voter ID law over strenuous objections from Democrats. However, even that wasn’t enough to overcome his past support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants and other moderate tendencies.

When Ted Cruz challenged Dewhurst for the Senate it was said that the standards for conservatives had to be higher in Texas than most other states. Dan Patrick is perhaps the most outspoken elected conservative in Texas politics right now, with a clear path to becoming one of the most powerful political figures in the state.

In two years, Texas Republicans have selected two deeply committed conservatives to important offices with national reach. Time will tell if Cruz and Patrick make good on their opportunities.

January 24th, 2014 at 3:18 pm
NY’s Schumer Calls on Dems to Defend Government

Talk about a New York state of mind.

In the run-up to the 2014 election, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “charts an agenda for Congress that includes extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable and investing in infrastructure,” according to the L.A. Times.

“Times are now ripe for a renewed and robust defense of government,” Schumer said in a speech to the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund. And he clearly doesn’t fear any potential downside. “The best way to deal with the tea party’s obsessive anti-government mania is to confront it directly, by showing the people the need for government to help them out of their morass.”

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The real maniacs in Washington, D.C. are liberals like Schumer who think Americans are eager to be told how government will meddle even more in the economy. Raising the minimum wage in an anemic employment market is a sure way to increase joblessness. But maybe that’s the point. The result is more people directly dependent on government outlays for their daily needs.

And then there is the inflationary effect of government spending on the price of college tuition, as well as the fact that ‘infrastructure investment’ is really code for pork barrel projects channeled to public employee unions.

Schumer’s call for a full-throated defense of government may get cheers in the liberal salons of the NYC-DC corridor, but echoing it would bring swift electoral defeat for his colleagues in more conservative states.

November 19th, 2013 at 5:50 pm
Common Core Could Spark Another Tea Party Election

Add Education Secretary Arne Duncan as the latest Obama administration official to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.

Late last week the face of the controversial Common Core curriculum standards tried to dismiss opposition in terms of race, class and gender. Categorizing opponents as “white suburban moms,” Duncan said bad performance on new standardized tests is the culprit.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought… and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan told a group of superintendents.

It’s pretty clear from his statements that Secretary Duncan doesn’t have a clue how deep and wide Common Core’s problems run.

Even though all but four states have adopted the Common Core State Standards – which seek to nationalize math and language arts curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade – grassroots opposition is bipartisan and fierce.

“Catholic scholars say the standards aren’t rigorous enough. Early childhood experts say they demand too much. Liberals complain the Common Core opens the door to excessive testing. Conservatives complain it opens the door to federal influence in local schools. Teachers don’t like the new textbooks. Parent’s don’t like the new homework,” reports Politico.

Those in Washington, D.C. who live to dictate rules to the rest of the country should take notice. It sounds like the Tea Party’s ranks may be getting reinforcements just in time for the next election.

October 17th, 2013 at 8:03 pm
Yale Law Prof: Tea Partiers Aren’t as Dumb as I Thought
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Dan Kahan, a law professor at Yale, recently decided to do a study examining the relationship  between political ideology and scientific literacy. Though Kahan has not admitted this publicly, it’s reasonable to assume that his intent was the same as most surveys of this stripe: proving that his opponents were idiots. He didn’t get his wish. As Politico reports:

… Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.

However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.

Kahan’s results are interesting, though not especially suprising. Anyone who’s spent any time around Tea Party types knows that they’re interested in ideas. You don’t pick up an affection for the Founding Fathers, after all, without cracking a book every now and then. Therein lies the problem, however. Kahan hasn’t spent any time with Tea Party types:

Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.

“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.

“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the tea party,” he continued. “All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper’ (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and POLITICO). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”

When Richard Nixon won the 1972 presidential election in a landslide, the New Yorker’s film critic, Pauline Kael, reportedly said that she was shocked because “no one I know voted for him.” That story’s been a metaphor for liberal insularity ever since, but let’s be fair to Kael — she was on an arts beat at a famously liberal magazine.

Professor Kahan, by contrast, is a member of the faculty at arguably the most prestigious law school in the country — a place where one should theoretically be able to develop an understanding of a major stream of American political thought deeper than what can be gleamed from the digital pages of the Huffington Post. The key word there is “theoretically.”

June 6th, 2013 at 12:45 pm
It Wasn’t Just Cincinnati
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Here’s a quick rule of thumb for the IRS scandal dogging the Obama Administration: things will only get worse. The most recent domino to fall: those claims that the abuse was quarantined to the agency’s Cincinnati office just don’t hold up. From the Wall Street Journal:

Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010.

Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati.

Elizabeth Hofacre said her office in Cincinnati sought help from IRS officials in the Washington unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations after she started getting the tea-party cases in April 2010. Ms. Hofacre said Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington, closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.

“I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” she said, according to the transcripts.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. A low-level government employee is the most risk-averse creature on the planet. That doesn’t prevent them from being wildly incompetent or occasionally venal, but it’s not the stuff of which sweeping ideological crusaders are made. That tends to require direction from above. How far up the chain it goes remains an open question.

May 25th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
IRS Gave Obama Charity Fast-Track Approval while Tea Party Groups Harassed

What’s in a name?

If you’re Lois Lerner, an IRS division head in charge of approving groups for non-profit status, seemingly everything.

By now, just about everyone in America knows that the IRS division tasked with scrutinizing non-profit applications deliberately and consistently targeted groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their name.

No similar litmus test was used for liberal or progressive groups, indicating a clear and convincing bias by the government against ideological opponents of the White House.

In fact, in at least one case, it looks like the very same IRS agents who persecuted conservative groups fast-tracked approval for an outfit whose name practically screamed for – and received – special treatment.

The name of the organization: The Barack H. Obama Foundation (BHOF). Though not formally affiliated with President Obama, the group is headed by one of his half-brothers, Abon’go Malik Obama, and named for their mutual father.

Organized in 2008, “BHOF operated illegally as a non-profit group and falsely claimed tax-exempt status – for which it had not yet formally applied,” according to research released by Discover the Networks, an online database that keeps track of the connections between leftwing groups and activists.

But once BHOF did get around to applying for tax-exempt status, the IRS’ penchant for favoritism really showed itself. Per Discover the Networks, “The foundation finally submitted its 2010 application for non-profit, tax-exempt status on May 23, 2011; seven days later, it submitted its filings for 2008 and 2009. Within just one month of these filings – on June 26, 2011 – Lois Lerner, the senior official who headed the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations office, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to BHOF.”

Here’s the best part. Apparently, “Lerner broke with the norms of tax-exemption approval making BHOF’s tax-exempt status retroactive to December 2008.”

Maybe the next time Lois Lerner appears before the House Oversight Committee the members will ask her to explain how, with the Tea Party and BHOF examples in mind, they can draw any other conclusion about her stewardship at the IRS than that it has been characterized by the most obvious case of unethical – and potentially illegal – partisan bias.

May 17th, 2013 at 11:28 am
Liberals: IRS Scandal Shows Need for Less Citizen Privacy, Not More
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

So the IRS singled out conservative citizens and organizations for persecution, while giving liberal counterparts a “pass,” in the words of USA Today.

As we note this week in our commentary “The IRS, Campaign Finance and Freedom of Association,” the scandal proves the inherent danger of federal micromanagement of American citizens’ private political activity.  As the Supreme Court observed in NAACP v. Alabama (1958), revelation of an organization’s members or supporters exposes them to reprisal, harassment and threat.  We now have a perfect illustration.

According to many liberals, however, the problem isn’t too little citizen privacy but too much.  Already during today’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the IRS practices, liberals such as Richard Neal (D – Massachusetts) and Charlie Rangel (D – New York) have asserted that Citizens United is the real problem.  Apparently, forcing citizens to disclose even more of their First Amendment activity to government will transform abusive IRS bureaucrats from perpetrators into saints.

Their agenda is wholly irrational, but all too predictable.   We must fully investigate and expose the IRS abuse, but we must also ensure that the longer-term takeaway is more individual freedom for American citizens, not less.

April 15th, 2013 at 5:08 pm
Me on Fox About the Tea Parties

On Friday, Chris Stirewalt of Fox News, one of journalism’s true good guys, put me on his show, Power Play, to discuss the achievements and challenges of the Tea Party movement in their first four years, and where they go from here. Key takeaway: The Tea Parties are focusing more and more on state and local issues, and having some real success there.

 

January 14th, 2013 at 12:06 pm
Artur Davis Defends Tea Partiers

The ever-thoughtful former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who is definitely of the center-right rather than the Tea Party right, nonetheless does a nice job defending the energy and many of the motivations of Tea Party activists in this essay at his web site.

The shortest distance in modern politics is the one between a Republican willing to denounce his party for extremism and the set of a cable or Sunday morning talk show. The gift of exposure is waiting for the cheap ticket of describing today’s Republicans as an intolerant set of know-nothings whom one no longer recognizes…. One modest proposal for Republican moderates: spend more time traveling the side roads to the buffet chains and libraries where, for example, local Tea Parties organize. The virtue of the trip, for a moderate, would be a discovery that a Tea Party conclave is as likely to include a civil engineer, or retired university professor as is the regular party committee, and far more likely to contain volunteers than are the luncheons of platinum level donors. Among other discoveries, to draw on personal experience, the presence of people like one Tea Party activist in Virginia, whose other major volunteer engagement is a network in Richmond for tutoring homeless young adults; or a Tea Party activist in Fairfax County who risked a lucrative career in business development over exposing a client’s wage scale that systematically discriminated against blacks.

Davis does not specifically refer to Colin Powell’s demagogically unfair remarks on Meet the Press yesterday, but his essay’s message (if not its direct intent, which surely had nothing to do with Powell) stands as a tacit rebuke to the Powells of the world who rush to denounce and smear good, decent Americans.

Again, though, that’s not the point of his essay. The point is that centrists and rightists should work to find common ground and build on that, rather than seek areas of disagreement and bash each other over those disagreements.  (As it so happens, I have an essay coming out in the February print edition of The American Spectator that makes a plea for a similar approach.) He’s correct, and his constructive advice is one that everybody right of center ought to take to heart.

December 20th, 2012 at 9:19 am
Ben Affleck to Replace John Kerry in the U.S. Senate?

If U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) becomes the next Secretary of State, expect several dominos to fall.  Soon-to-be-former Senator Scott Brown seems poised to run in yet another special election.  Bay State Tea Party groups will have to decide whether to support a member-turned-establishment figure like Brown over someone more conservative, but arguably less able to win.

And then there’s Ben Affleck.  What?  According to The Daily Caller, Affleck, the Hollywood star and Massachusetts native, recently met privately with Senator Kerry in Washington, D.C., possibly to discuss running for the latter’s open seat in 2013.  If you’re looking for qualifications, Affleck graduated from Harvard, won an Academy Award for co-writing “Good Will Hunting,” and founded the East Congo Initiative.  Oh, he’s also married to actress Jennifer Garner.

But if Affleck isn’t your ideal Senator, remember, it could be worse.  Minnesota gave us Saturday Night Live’s Al Franken.  If Affleck takes a pass, America could get his friend and Palin-hater, Matt Damon.  Can you imagine Damon and Elizabeth Warren together?

September 29th, 2012 at 6:47 pm
Constitutional vs. Judicial Conservatives

Randy Barnett, writing for the American Spectator, captures the zeitgeist of the Tea Party movement in a rousing essay about the need going forward for a different kind of mindset when judging conservative judicial nominees:

Now we will have an election to decide the ultimate fate of Obamacare. But this election should also be about who will be selected to serve on the Supreme Court. Should Republican presidents continue to nominate judicial conservatives who are enthralled with the New Dealers’ mantra of judicial restraint? Or should they nominate constitutional conservatives who believe that it is not “activism” for judges to enforce the whole Constitution? All future nominees should be vetted not only for their views on the meaning of the Constitution, but for their willingness to enforce that meaning.

With Barnett’s distinction in mind, it’s no wonder that Tea Party-inspired Senators like Marco Rubio (FL), Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY), Jim DeMint (SC) – and soon-to-be Senator Ted Cruz (TX) – all identify themselves as constitutional conservatives.  Restraint in judging liberalism’s faulty governing assumptions hasn’t gotten conservatives many substantive victories.  We need smart, bold nominees eager and able to make the case for the kind of limited government our Founders envisioned; both in the political branches and on the bench.

September 13th, 2012 at 8:08 pm
Mitch McConnell Hires Tea Party Strategist

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell made a very public peace with Rand Paul and Kentucky’s Tea Party movement by hiring Jesse Benton to head his reelection campaign in 2014.

Previously, Benton steered Rand Paul into Kentucky’s other U.S. Senate seat by defeating an establishment candidate handpicked by McConnell.  This cycle Benton ran Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.

With $6 million already in the bank for an election two years away, McConnell’s hiring of Benton likely shuts the door to the kind of Tea Party conservative primary challenge faced by other long-serving Republicans.

July 23rd, 2012 at 9:39 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Colorado Shooting, Media Bias
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

May 15th, 2012 at 1:41 pm
GOP Establishment About to Take Another Hit in Nebraska?
Posted by Troy Senik Print

As the 2012 election cycle has progressed, one of the growing memes on the left has been that the Tea Party has lost a lot of the anti-establishment momentum it had in 2010, when it was responsible for electing U.S. Senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, and Florida’s Marco Rubio. The pundits have been a little quick on the trigger finger.

Last week, 35-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar went down to defeat in Indiana at the hands of the Tea Party candidate, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a race that we chronicled at length here at CFIF. Today, voters heading to the polls in Nebraska may deliver a similar shock to the GOP establishment.

The establishment choice, state Attorney General Jon Bruning, has been under fire for exactly the kind of crony capitalism that has come to define Tea Party distaste for business as usual. It was long thought that State Treasurer Don Stenberg — who enjoyed the support of Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and the Club for Growth — would be the conservative alternative to Bruning. But in recent days, Bruning’s numbers are falling without Stenberg’s rising proportionately.

The reason is a third candidate, State Senator Deb Fischer, who has recently emerged from relative obscurity thanks to endorsements from Sarah Palin and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. According to recent polling, there’s a very real possibility of Fischer pulling off an upset of epic proportions and walking away with the nomination. And while Stenberg’s supporters aren’t happy to see their man failing to close, they’re already suggesting that Fischer would be an acceptable alternative to Bruning and the business as usual he represents.

We’ll have to watch the polls tonight to see how this thing resolves, but one thing’s for sure: even the worst-case scenario for Tea Partiers (a narrow win by Bruning) would send a powerful message to the GOP establishment in Washington: the Tea Party is here to stay.

April 26th, 2012 at 1:03 pm
With Time Running Out, Lugar Slipping Behind Tea Party Rival in Indiana
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Last month, I posted here about how longtime Indiana Senator Richard Lugar’s bid for a seventh (!) term in the upper chamber was being jeopardized by a strong Tea Party rival (State Treasurer Richard Mourdock) and revelations that Lugar doesn’t seem to actually have a residence in the Hoosier State. At the time, I wrote:

By election day, Lugar will likely be scrounging for every vote he can get. At that point, he may come to regret devoting so much of his energy to dismissing the concerns of conservative voters.

Hate to say I told you so. With only 12 days remaining until Indiana’s primary, Politico reports the following:

Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar has fallen behind state Treasurer Richard Mourdock by five points, according to a new poll released Thursday …

Mourdock’s lead is powered by self-described tea party conservatives, who comprise 36 percent of the GOP electorate.

Among that group of voters, Mourdock holds a commanding 63 percent to 24 percent lead.

The fact of the matter is that, should Dick Lugar lose this election, he will likely not choose to retire back to Indiana. That fact — and the mindset it represents — is reason enough for him to no longer represent the state in the U.S. Senate.

April 10th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
Romney Enjoying 60 Percent Approval Rating … Amongst Romney Advisers
Posted by Troy Senik Print

So ubiquitous is coverage of presidential candidates in this 24-hour news cycle era — and so pervasive is the numbness that results — that it’s easy to lose sight of some truly bizarre developments in this year’s election cycle; developments that have seen their novelty rusted away by saturation coverage.

Among them: the signature achievement in the political career of Mitt Romney, the almost certain Republican nominee for president (especially with Rick Santorum leaving the race today), is so deeply unpalatable to conservatives that it even divides his advisers. Consider this, from Politico:

Two of the five members of [Mitt] Romney’s recently announced Health Care Policy Advisory Group have a record of opposition to his Massachusetts health care reform plan.

Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a new addition to Romney’s advisory team, wrote in late 2010 that Romney’s plan has resulted in a dramatic increase in insurance costs for small businesses.

He also said it’s “no secret” that the state plan was the “template” for President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.

Scott Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and another new Romney health adviser, was sharply critical of Romney’s health plans in 2007 while Atlas was supporting New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

“Mitt Romney’s legacy is the creation of a multibillion dollar government health bureaucracy that punishes employers and insists middle income individuals either purchase health insurance or pay for their own health care,” Atlas told reporters. “The former is a mandate, the latter is a tax and neither one is free market.”

Lest the point be oversold, we should note that past Republican nominees have accessorized their necks with similar albatrosses. John McCain, for instance, was the co-author of a federal campaign finance law loathed by conservatives because it is inimical to political free speech. But there’s still a slight difference: Romney’s policy liability deals with one of the defining issues of the election he’ll be running in — and it also happened to be the intellectual predicate for his opponent’s crowning legislative achievement.

Virtually all the energy that has animated the conservative movement over the last three years — energy best exemplified by the Tea Party — has come in reaction to Obamacare and the government overreach it represents. Now the Republican Party will march into electoral battle behind the progenitor of that intrusion. We live in strange times.

March 20th, 2012 at 5:52 pm
Tea Party’s Next Stop: Indiana?
Posted by Troy Senik Print

A little over a year ago, I wrote a column here at CFIF looking at the potential primary challenges facing two veteran Republican members of the U.S. Senate up for reelection in 2012: Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Indiana’s Richard Lugar. Both have grown long in the tooth over decades in the upper chamber; and both are regarded with suspicion by conservative activists who find their sense of principle lukewarm. The difference between the two, as I emphasized then, is how they have approached the challenge. Hatch has been doing his ready best to convince Tea Party activists that he’s an effective defender of conservative values. Lugar, on the other hand, has regarded the resistance with an attitude bordering on contempt.

While neither’s fate is yet certain, both are becoming clearer. As I mentioned on the blog last week, Utah held caucuses on Thursday that determined delegates to the party’s state convention — delegates who would select the eventual nominee for the Senate seat. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Sen. Orrin Hatch, targeted by primary challengers and a tea party-aligned group, apparently has won a healthy share of delegates to the Utah Republican convention. That gives him a good shot at avoiding being defeated at the convention, as a Senate colleague was two years ago.

The news isn’t looking as sunny for Lugar, however. From National Journal:

A new poll … shows Republican Sen. Richard Lugar leading GOP state Treasurer Richard Mourdock by single digits, 45-39 percent.

The poll of likely Republican primary voters shows Lugar’s lead shrinking over his underdog opponent ahead of the May 8 primary. In October, Lugar led Mourdock 48 percent to 36 percent. Fifty-seven percent of likely Republican voters said they would consider another candidate or vote to replace Lugar.

In the last six weeks, Lugar’s faced an onslaught of questions from opponents and the media about his residency. He lives in northern Virginia but is registered to vote in the Hoosier state at the address of a home he sold in 1977. The state has ruled that he is eligible to run for reelection but a county elections board ruled last week that he is not eligible to vote.

This kind of trajectory — with this kind of timeframe (approximately a month and a half until primary day) — looks very bad for Lugar. So do the dynamics moving forward. There’s a natural ceiling on the number of voters who will shift their allegiance because of ideology, favoring a more conservative candidate than Lugar. But many less issue-driven voters will likely be turned off by the residency question (a similar controversy contributed to Elizabeth Dole’s loss in the general election in North Carolina in 2008).

By election day, Lugar will likely be scrounging for every vote he can get. At that point, he may come to regret devoting so much of his energy to dismissing the concerns of conservative voters.

March 14th, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Utah Conservatives Looking for an Escape Hatch
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Though you won’t hear much about it in the press, tomorrow will be a big day for the Tea Party movement. That’s because it will be the day that Republican voters caucus throughout Utah to pick their delegates to the state convention — delegates who, in turn, will choose which candidates to put on the Beehive State’s June primary ballot.

This is momentous because there’s a big push by Tea Partiers — with FreedomWorks leading the charge — to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and replace him with a more conservative alternative. This is how Politico frames it:

The group’s tactics are the latest chapter of the debate still hounding Republicans as they try to win a majority on Capitol Hill this November: Should they purge their own to find fresh blood who will be less willing to seek bipartisan compromises by straying from conservative principles? Or should they unite behind the most electable candidate and train all their fire power on Democrats?

Allow me to answer both of those questions: yes.

It’s all a matter of political prudence. One of the lessons of the 2010 midterm senate races was the importance of finding the right candidate for the right jurisdiction — and that means different things in different places. In Utah, for instance, which is the most Republican state in the nation, it was utterly sensible to replace incumbent Bob Bennett (not exactly a liberal, but not really a constitutional conservative either) with Tea Party darling Mike Lee, knowing that Lee could easily carry the general election in the fall. The Tea Party was similarly shrewd in getting behind Marco Rubio in Florida, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Rand Paul in Kentucky.

There were a few missteps, however. The hyper-conservative Sharron Angle was a poor choice for the swing state of Nevada, where either Sue Lowden or Danny Tarkanian (both of whom would have voted as conventional conservatives) would have stood a better chance at defeating Harry Reid. Even less suited for her contest was Christine O’Donnell, the conservative firebrand running in deep-blue Delaware. O’Donnell’s primary opponent, the moderate-to-liberal Republican Mike Castle, would doubtlessly have taken many votes as a U.S. Senator that would have made conservatives squirm — but fewer than the eventual winner, Democrat Chris Coons, who Castle likely would have beaten had he been the nominee.

So what does this principle mean for Utah? Hatch, like Bennett before him, has been an able public servant, who has, most of the time, been in conservatism if not exactly of conservatism. Were he from a swing state where moving to the right could be an electoral death sentence, then that would probably be a sufficient argument for retaining him. That’s not the case in Utah, however. And the state’s conservatives are going to have a hard time turning down the opportunity to elect another senator as consistently principled in his defense of limited government as Mike Lee.

It doesn’t help either that the best argument against Hatch comes from Hatch. I’ll let Politico have the final word:

In Utah, FreedomWorks distributed a 44-page brochure to 37,000 potential convention-goers, highlighting Hatch’s positions over the years on earmarks, the bank bailout and deals with Ted Kennedy over a child health care law.

On the inside page of the brochure is a quote from Hatch during his first campaign in 1976 against 18-year incumbent Sen. Frank Moss: “What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.”