I just got off the phone with Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman from my native South Bend area and Pat Toomey’s newly announced successor at the Club for Growth. “The reason I was interested in doing this is that I believe in the mission that has been in place,” Chocola said. “I was a Club-endorsed candidate twice – in 2000 and 2004.”
The Club’s most significant and most controversial activity since its inception — its involvement in Republican primaries on behalf of conservative candidates, even at times against Republican incumbents — will definitely continue.
“You can’t get the right policy without the right people voting,” Chocola said. ”When I was in the House, we had enough seats, we just didn’t have enough votes. One of the things I came away with is that the enemy is not really the Democrats, it was the Republicans. We just couldn’t get enough votes to take political leadership . . . I think we lost the majority because we didn’t live up to expectations about what people expected us to do. I think if we’d done entitlement reform, tort reform, we might have expanded our majorities.”
Chocola said that he sees a large public market for the Club’s principles — for example, in today’s Tea Party movement. “The tea parties are a clear indication of the frustration and of what’s wrong,” he said. “I think that the club’s educational and advocacy efforts, as well as its political efforts, are needed and will be helpful.”
Of his predecessor: “I think Pat’s done a great job — the entire team here has done a great job. They’ve been one of the most effective voices for conservative values in the country. I don’t plan to change anything coming in.”
He said that the Club will continue to be involved in “races where we can make a difference.” I asked him whether a Pennsylvania Senate primary would be such a race if Toomey runs, as expected. He was tight-lipped: ”We have a process for choosing those races, and it would go through that process,” he said.