In the Wall Street Journal today, Karl Rove asks: “Can Republicans Retake the Senate in 2010?” To answer his own question, Rove traces his finger across the map of America, commenting on hot races everywhere from Florida to Connecticut. He concludes that the GOP “probably won’t win control of the Senate” but adds that “a lot can happen in a year” and that 2010 could be a “target-rich environment” for Republicans.
One contest that Rove declines to mention is the race to fill the seat of Texas’s retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s currently running for governor against GOP incumbent Rick Perry. Hutchison has pledged to stay in the upper chamber until the primary is over, but says she’s “crystal clear” about leaving the Senate regardless of whether she or Perry wins.
Later today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) will endorse a candidate to succeed Hutchison in an attempt to help push a conservative to the front of a crowded field. DeMint’s pick: Michael Williams, the Texas Railroad Commissioner and first African American to hold statewide office in the Lone Star State. This isn’t DeMint’s first foray into other states’ Senate races. He’s already backed conservative candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida and Chuck DeVore in California.
DeMint tells NRO that he sees his endorsement as “an opportunity to elect and get excited about a mainstream conservative.”
“Not many people know that we’ll have a new Republican senator from Texas in April,” says DeMint. “Michael has been offering himself for this office ever since Senator Hutchison went on record and said she’d be leaving.” Williams, he says, is “very popular with everyone from the Tea Party crowd to mainstream Republicans and with lots of conservative Democrats.” That appeal, plus “his demonstrated willingness to stand up for principle and take on his party” is what spurred DeMint to endorse.
“(Williams) pursued my endorsement,” says DeMint. “We met once or twice. We’ve talked on the phone a good bit. To me, he represents a ‘new Republican.’ Now, I want to be clear — I don’t mean purity or litmus tests but a Republican who truly believes in constitutional government and the principles of liberty. We can debate a lot of issues in Washington, but we need leaders who want to work within a constitutional framework, not a spending one. Michael will help us have a better debate about what it means to have a federal government and how to work toward more state autonomy and individual freedom.”
“The GOP leadership needs to stand up for mainstream American principles,” says DeMint. The best way to do that, he says, is to “look to the great candidates we can support like Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Chuck DeVore, and now Michael Williams. They’re exciting, principled candidates who have all stood up to the Republican party.”
“We need to stop looking at the tea parties as separate from the Republican party,” adds DeMint. “If we do that, we can stand up and create the biggest tent of all.”
Here’s Williams on controlling spending in Washington: