Now the concerned whispers are becoming audible groans. Turns out after premature high-fiving in certain Republican circles, the GOP just may be on the verge of blowing its opportunity to take control of the U.S. Senate in November. A few of us have been warning for months that unless the GOP responded smartly to the huge public outcry over the border surge, it would miss a chance to energize disaffected voters. We also urged our friends in the establishment that they shouldn’t take their primary victories against more-conservative candidates as a sign that they could “play it safe” during the campaign.
The public wants policies to strengthen the American workforce, raise its standard of living, and renew and protect the homeland. It wants to see an affirmative agenda to spur growth and economic opportunity—one that goes beyond “dump Obamacare.” But the voters are enduring uninspiring candidates, boring political ads, and wishy-washy campaign statements on immigration enforcement. One of the only Senate campaigns playing the immigration issue correctly is that of moderate Scott Brown in New Hampshire. And guess what? After trailing Jean Shaheen for months, he is now in a dead-heat race with the pro-amnesty Democrat incumbent. Go figure.
Then there’s the issue of money. Writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, establishment fave Karl Rove says the GOP Senate majority is “still in doubt,” noting that the GOP Senate candidates are being outspent $109 million to $85 million in media buys. He urges Republicans to “open their wallets to candidates whom they have never met.” Here’s what I say to this entreaty: How much money did the establishment spend to save Thad Cochran? How much did they spend to try to save Eric Cantor? How much did they spend to save Lamar Alexander, and Lindsey Graham, and all the other incumbents who they defended earlier this year? None of those dollars were spent to fight the Democrats — they were all used to beat and in many cases malign the Tea Party.
Meanwhile, how many voters in places like Mississippi, and Tennessee, and South Carolina, decided that they aren’t going to give any more money to a GOP establishment that hates them and mocks them at every turn? How much money has that cost the GOP?
The bottom line is this: If the GOP loses the Senate, it’s all due to establishment incompetence. From beginning to end, they ran exactly the campaign they wanted. They took all the budget issues off the table. They refused to use the power of the purse—congressional Republicans’ most potent weapon for curbing White House excesses. They spent most of the year talking about immigration reform instead of criticizing Obama. They saved almost all of their incumbents from primary challengers. And they pushed through guys like the vanilla Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Bush loyalist Ed Gillespie in Virginia. This is their race. If they can’t win it — then how can they expect to beat Hillary in 2016?