Primary Days Are Good Days (Really!)

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Many have been mesmerized by the Delaware Senate primary. Perhaps outside of sex scandals (on the Right) or Lady Gaga — there’s no better story to the mainstream media than conservatives divided.

I know everyone is in over-analysis mode, if not at each others’ throats, but it’s good to remember the liberating thing about these hours during election days: It’s democracy now. It’s not in the hands of the pundits. The voters will decide how the various primaries turn out.

I’ll confess that one thing I’ve enjoyed these past few weeks has been watching some impressive conservative candidates be real players in the northeast. In New York, there’s George Demos, who got a boost from Rush Limbaugh last week (Demos had been an 18-year-old subscriber to The Limbaugh Letter). In my chat with him yesterday, Demos told me, “If we don’t take back the Congress now, and allow two more years of unfettered liberal policies, we will lose our country as we know it for a generation. We have to stop this trend to European socialism.” He continued, “I do not accept the premise that if Republicans are going to win, it has to be with pretender conservatives.” The comment was meant to be a hit at his two opponents in today’s primary, but it serves as a good rallying cry for northeast Republicans and the Republican party in general. I understand why the national party is not putting a lot of resources into New York races. But I love New Yorkers fighting for the soul of the GOP on their home turf. As Demos said in our chat, “If you want to take back Congress, the northeast is a part of that picture.”

Although the Delaware Senate race has gotten more attention, the New Hampshire Senate Republican race has been a dynamic one, too. There, Sarah Palin endorsed Attorney General Kelly Ayotte early on, as did the Susan B. Anthony List. She appeared to be the most viable pro-life candidate at the time, in what has become a four-way fight.

But in the latest Public Policy Polling survey, Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne is only down seven points (he was down 39 points in a PPP poll in July). A Magellan poll late yesterday had Lamontagne only four points behind Ayotte.

This comes after criticism of Ayotte from conservatives nationally for not pushing hard enough in the parental-notification case that pro-lifers praised her for in their earlier endorsements. The Judicial Crisis Network has run ads in recent days criticizing Ayotte for saying that she would have supported Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. (Lamontagne has said he would not have.)

The Susan B. Anthony List has credibly defended their endorsement of Ayotte, saying they viewed Ayotte as the most viable pro-lifer in the race when they endorsed her (she scored 100 percent on their questionnaire). And just last week, the National Right to Life reissued a vote of confidence for her. Director of state legislation Mary Spaulding Balch sent out a statement pushing back against criticisms of Ayotte: “Anyone who actually studies the timeline and the facts will find that Ayotte used her office to vigorously defend the law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court only to have pro-abortion members of the New Hampshire legislature ultimately repeal the act in the middle of the legal challenge.”

But now PPP polling suggests that both Ayotte and Lamontagne would be competitive in a race with Democrat Paul Hodes.

I think pro-lifers likely win whoever prevails tonight, Lamontagne or Ayotte. But I also wonder if Sarah Palin and others have been overdoing it in their Ayotte push these last few days. Lamontagne (who was boosted early and often by Laura Ingraham) is a longtime, dedicated conservative activist — there is little question where he will stand on issues if he winds up in Washington. If he got to the Senate, his inclination would be to lead on these issues. He is a good man whose integrity is obvious and desire to serve is grounded in enduring principles of the kind that undergird the tea-party environment. And his current momentum is the result of healthy competition on issues of leadership and substance.

All things being equal, having a pro-life woman in the Senate is a good thing, for sure. I appreciate the “Mama Grizzly” push — which SBA List was doing way before it was cool. But sometimes things aren’t quite equal. And there are prudential judgments we are all free — civically, morally — to make. And sometimes, the endorsement wars get a bit too much and I’m happy to trust the prudential judgments of in-state voters. May the best pro-life candidate win.