The Corner

Politics & Policy

Were Conservatives Bored by One of the Few Big GOP Primaries of 2015?

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

LaHood vs. Flynn in Illinois’s Special Congressional Election

It’s primary day in Illinois.

If you had told me that a year ago that a GOP House primary would feature a former Breitbart.com editor up against the son of an Obama cabinet official, and that most grassroots conservatives would be pretty “meh” about it . . . I would not have believed you.

“Eh, it’s just a special House election, the stakes aren’t that high . . . ” Well, Dede Scozzafava vs. Doug Hoffman was a special House election, too. Is it that after a disappointing 2014 cycle for primary challengers, the Tea Party just doesn’t feel like putting that much effort into a primary? Is it that Darin LaHood just doesn’t seem like that bad a guy?

Is it that he’s seen as the “favorite son” candidate?

The LaHood name is a familiar one to voters in central Illinois. La­Hood’s father, Ray, served as the district’s Re­pub­li­can con­gress­man from 1995 until 2009, when he was named as Democratic President Barack Obama’s transportation secretary — a position he left in 2013. Before his election to Congress, Ray LaHood was chief of staff to his predecessor, Robert Michel, who was House Republican leader.

Is Mike Flynn that flawed a candidate for the conservative banner?

Politico suggests this race was never that competitive after all:

Flynn is facing a steep uphill fight against state Sen. Darin LaHood, who raised $718,000 in the two-and-a-half months before the primary — more than 10 times what Flynn pulled in. LaHood has won endorsements from GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and six of the state’s seven Republican congressmen. And he stands to benefit from his well-known last name — LaHood’s father, former GOP Rep. Ray LaHood, represented the district for seven terms before President Barack Obama tapped him in 2009 to be transportation secretary.

In a telephone interview, Flynn characterized his chances in the Republican primary on Tuesday as “about a 50-50 proposition right now” — but GOP operatives in Illinois are far less optimistic about his odds.

“He doesn’t have a chance,” said Patrick Brady, a GOP consultant in Chicago and a former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.

“Darin LaHood has exponentially more name I.D., exponentially more money and exponentially more relevant experience,” said Doug O’Brien, a Republican consultant in the state who counts Flynn as a friend.

If LaHood wins today, you know some lefty site is going to suddenly discover his father’s past work in the Obama cabinet and declare, “Obama still plays in Peoria — even among Republicans” or even “Obama defeats Breitbart.”

Ace of Spades knows Flynn well and has been particularly passionate in his endorsement; but he’s also argued that this House primary — this easily-ignored, seemingly-low-stakes House primary — is a useful measuring stick of just how badly the conservative grassroots wants to change things.

As Flynn said, when he told me about his plans to run: We can’t just keep electing Democrats in Disguise and then whine that we’re not advancing conservative politics. At some point, we have to either make different choices, or admit to ourselves that we actively wish to be ruled by Boehner and Barack.

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