Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Right Holds It's Own Hostage

Interesting article on CQpolitics online relayed to me yesterday by a friend.

Shortly after Arlen Specter and two other centrist Senate Republicans struck their deal with Democrats and the White House on the economic stimulus package, Specter was approached in the GOP cloakroom by one of his colleagues.

“ ‘Arlen, I’m proud of you,’ ” the second senator said. Specter declined to say who the lawmaker was, but he recounted the rest of their conversation this way: “‘Are you going to vote with me?’ I said. He said, ‘No, I might have a primary.’ And I said, ‘You know very well that I’m going to have a primary.’”

That brief encounter clearly illuminated the position moderates hold in the ranks of the Senate Republicans these days — weighing their ideological inclination to find common cause with President Obama against the political risks and rewards of such dealmaking, both for themselves and for their party.

My friend David Amerikaner narrowed the list down to ten names, all male, up for reelection in 2010: Bennett (UT), Bunning (KY), Burr (NC), Coburn (OK), Crapo (ID), Grassley (IA), Gregg (NH), Isakson (GA), Shelby (AL), Vitter (LA).

Good place to start. I'm going to throw out Bunning (already facing primary challenge) and Coburn (known anti-government activist) off the top of my head. This leaving Bennett, Burr, Crapo, Grassley, Gregg, Isakson, Shelby and Vitter.

Bennett: While I know (from personal experience) politicians do not always believe their own rhetoric, I think this statement from Bennett in a Huffington Post article rules him out:

"We have a very, very clear model, because we passed a stimulus package in the last Congress -- bipartisan. Republicans voted for it. Democrats voted for it. It didn't work," said Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who led financial-industry bailout negotiations for the GOP.

Bennett argued that the last plan "was based on economic analysis of past recessions and past problems and not the depth and seriousness of this one. We saw personal income spike up as a result of the stimulus we put into the economy, and the economy was stimulated not at all."

For Bennett, the plan failed because high debts and the dire economic outlook persuaded people that they should save their money or pay down loans rather than spend. "When you're having an economic crisis, whether you're a company like General Motors or a bank like Citi or an individual, you do what you can to pay down your debt. That's what was done with the last stimulus package. That's the rational thing to do."

Burr: Not only did Obama win his state, Burr just saw Liddy Dole lose reelection by 9 points. Furthermore, his favorables are under 50 points. However, Burr has not ventured against conservative orthodoxy in his time in the Senate often. I doubt the GOP would want to further weaken an already weak candidate (see Arlen Spector). Plausible candidate.

Crapo: Won 99 percent of the vote in his reelect in 2004. It has been rumored that he's a candidate for GOP leadership in the Senate. Popular back home, doubt anybody takes him on. I'll rule him out.

Grassley: Although he got the Obama Administration to move a $69 billion AMT patch into the stimulus bill, I doubt he is the one in question. A weekend hog farmer who visits all 99 counties in Iowa every year, a viable primary challenge is not in the cards here.

Gregg: Interesting candidate here. Gregg abstained for a cloture vote when deciding on whether to take the Commerce position. That aside, he is popular with conservatives in New Hampshire. Considering the changing dynamics of the state I doubt Gregg is worried about a primary challenge from the right in an open primary system. I'll rule him out.

Isakson: Isakson is fairly conservative but has taken some moderate steps here and there (ie. the bailout and immigration). His ridiculous amendment that would have done little else than put money in realtor's pockets showed he was at least willing to play ball. No primary challenger has announced, yet there have been rumors of it happening. Strong candidate.

Shelby: Originally elected as a Democrat from Alabama to the US Senate. Shelby is now questioning Obama's citizenship (seriously?!?!). Shelby has a $13.4 million war chest (the biggest of any incumbent on the board for 2010). Doubt he is concerned with a primary challenge.

Vitter: Extremely worried about a primary challenge (voted against HRC for State as a result). His track record is ridiculously conservative, so I doubt he would even contemplate voting for the stimulus bill.
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My best guess: Isakson.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Agree that Bunning and Coburn can probably be thrown out right away. Bunning is already facing a primary and wouldn't have voted for the stimulus anyway, and Coburn is the most conservative senator the senate, more or less. I'd also throw out Crapo (agree that he's not gonna face a challenge in Idaho), and Grassley, based on Grassley's comments about the stimulus. Vitter's too conservative and is trying to become even more so; Shelby wouldn't have wanted to vote for this and is a douchebag anyway.

I don't know much about Burr, but I've heard from a friend who used to work on the Hill that he's the most obstructionist senator in the GOP. The hardest to work with. The least bipartisan. So I'd rule him out.

Gregg we can rule out because he dropped out as CommSec ostensibly because of disagreements over the stimulus.

That leaves Isakson and Bennett, who I think are the two most likely. You're right - Isakson has been very conservative but has shown signs that he might be open to reason, on occasion. I can't imagine Bennett facing a serious challenge in Utah, but it's not out of the question. I would say it's one of the two of those guys.