Monday, December 09, 2013

Primary declarations heating up

As we're less than a year away from the 2014 midterm elections, more candidates are stepping forward to enter Congressional races.

In one of Minnesota's more polarizing Congressional Districts, the incumbent House member has himself a challenger from within his own party.

A fellow Republican launching an endorsement challenge to U.S. Rep. John Kline said Monday that the six-term incumbent congressman is not conservative enough.

David Gerson of South St. Paul kicked off his campaign at a state Capitol news conference. Gerson lost to Kline in the 2012 GOP primary in the 2nd Congressional District, getting just 15 percent of votes to 85 percent for Kline.

But Gerson said he entered the race late last time and would pursue a more organized and professional campaign this time. This time, he intends to pursue the endorsement of GOP activists in the largely suburban district south of St. Paul and said he would not run in the primary if he fails to get it.

Gerson affiliated himself with the tea party movement, saying the GOP needs to do a better job of supporting the principles of limited government, free markets and individual rights. He said conservatives "are tired of voting for Republicans who are the lesser of two evils. They are tired of voting for Republicans who mouth conservative principles but don't back them with action."

Gerson also went on to say that his campaign is about defining Republicanism "consistent with the conservative principles of the people of the Second Congressional District." One slight problem with that characterization. The latest Cook Partisan Voting Index (which is a measurement of how strongly a United States congressional district leans toward the Democratic or Republican Party) shows CD2 at an R+2. Not exactly a conservative bastion. Furthermore, in the 2012 presidential election, the voters in that district voted to reelect Barack Obama by 0.06% (whereas Kline won his reelection bid by 8 points). While the GOP will likely have an advantage in 2014 with no Obama up the ticket, CD2 is still not an overwhelmingly Republican district. So while it's admirable for Gerson to tout his staunch conservatism, it may not play as well in MN CD2 as opposed to, say, my home district of CD6, which is the most right leaning district in the state with an R+12 PVI.

Another myth that Gerson seems to perpetuate is Kline's lack of conservatism. While it's true that certain votes Kline has taken have rankled those right of center (myself included), his lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union (the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation) is a 94 out of 100.

Kline's camp has not confirmed whether or not they will abide by the Republican party endorsement should Gerson receive it (apparently Gerson has called on Kline to abide by it, which means he's confident he'll get it). But given that Kline has close to $1.5 million cash on hand, he would have no trouble funding a primary campaign and, since he would likely prevail in a primary, a general election bid. Gerson's only hope of getting the GOP nomination is if Kline were to agree to bow out if he didn't receive the endorsement. That's been the strategy of the "liberty" faction of the MN GOP for the past few election cycles. That is, get the most viable candidates in a race to acquiesce to stepping aside if they don't receive the endorsement, and then mobilize to seize the majority of "liberty" delegate spots to the respective convention. Boom! Liberty candidate endorsed, and they move on to the general election......where they usually get trounced.

The overall point is to adhere to the William F. Buckley philosophy, which is to put forth the most viable conservative (i.e. a Republican who can actually win an election. Shouldn't that be a priority?). In this particular race, it is pretty obvious that would be Kline.



Mr. D said...

I think you're right, but you're going to get a lot of argument on this one. Kline's problem is that a lot of his apostasy is of recent vintage. Gerson is probably a good guy, but based on what I know about MN-2, Kline is probably a better fit for the district.

Brad said...

Kline's problem is that a lot of his apostasy is of recent vintage.

Yep. He voted yes on increasing the debt ceiling and ending the govt. shutdown while voting "no" on the Amash amendment which looked to limit NSA surveillance to the threshold of the Patriot Act. No question that those are not conservative votes.

I would argue, however, that Kline is exercising pragmatism, a dirty word in the "WIBERTY!" lexicon. However, with CD2 moving leftward after redistricting, I don't envision any candidates far to the right of Kline (esp. Gerson) being able to win there.