Thursday, May 20, 2010

Republican Losses in the Primaries

More than is generally recognized, the Republicans may have been the biggest losers recently. Their mainstream candidates have had a rough time. Senator Robert Bennett of Utah was ousted at a GOP state convention, in favor of a Tea Party candidate. In Kentucky, the choice of the state GOP establishment was beaten in a primary by Tea Partier Rand Paul. Arlen Specter, a former Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, felt so uncertain about his re-election prospects in a Republican primary that he switched to the Democratic Party, but then lost to an upstart Democratic Congressman, Joe Sestak.

It seems that mainstream Republicans are an endangered species. Mitt Romney, a frequent leader in the early polling for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, endorsed the losing Bob Bennett. He must be furiously re-working his candidacy, perhaps to include a well-televised caribou hunt in Alaska.

The Democrats have their share of problems with upstarts. A longstanding Congressman from West Virginia, Alan Mollohan, was defeated in a primary by a state senator. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas will face Arkansas' lieutenant governor, Bill Halter, in a runoff. But the Dems also won a special election in Pennsylvania to replace the late John Murtha. Democrat Mark Critz beat Tea Partier Tim Burns.

Political insurgencies today aren't always about one party versus the other. They're often about newcomers challenging incumbents. And the challengers that win tend to be the more extreme. That's what is surely giving the GOP establishment nightmares. Presidential elections are decided by winning over moderate voters. Extremists may take control of parties. But they don't win Presidential elections.

Lyndon Johnson, may he rest in peace, must be smiling now. He was elected in 1964 by a landslide when the Republican nomination was seized by Barry Goldwater's insurgency. Goldwater, may he rest in peace, mellowed as he grew older and is probably frowning now. Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2012 Presidential election, and he'll have a good chance for a second term if extremists succeed in their efforts to take over the Republican Party.

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