I wrote this in a post last week, but it’s worth recycling here after watching Bill O’Reilly ruffle the Krauthammer feathers on The Factor tonight:
It’s the Senate races that bear the most interest because, if you’re going to start shifting the center of gravity, the most deliberative body of Congress is the place to establish a long term trend. The Senate elects one-third of its members every six years. And, because of the rules of debate in the upper chamber, the minority party holds considerably more power than a minority in the House of Representatives. If you’re going to make an ideological stand, it makes sense to put your assets in play in the Senate, and take a few risks with candidates who line up more closely with the principles espoused by the movement. The power of the minority party allows you to block measures that run counter to the center-right agenda while building coalitions with moderate Democrats to pass measures supporting the center-right agenda, all while building for the next cycle of elections, where you’ll have a shot at another one-third of the seats. How do you think the Democrats did it?
You’re not going to win every race. Angle faces a formidable foe in the sitting Senate Majority Leader. That’s a toss-up. Rubio is up against two candidates, one backed by a well-funded Democrat party apparatus; the other the sitting Governor. Another toss-up. O’Donnell has the longest, tallest road to climb in beating a Democrat in a deep blue state without any party establishment support at all. That’s almost surely a loss.
But you will win some of them, and you’ll win enough of them so that your voices are heard loudly on Capitol Hill for the next six years. And, you’re also putting the GOP establishment on notice—conservatives are willing to lose races by nominating candidates on conservative principle. That is to say, conservatives—and the grassroots movement that became the Tea Party—are willing to sacrifice a race here or there by nominating principled conservatives and unwilling to sacrifice conservative principles just to win. Conservatives will nominate a “non-electable” candidate if they think the “non-conservative” candidate isn’t worth voting for. It will cause establishment-type Republicans to think twice about seeking nominations in the 2012 and 2014 Senate cycles while encouraging principled conservatives to explore and possibly seek seats. This is a long process, but it’s the best one if we’re ever going to see center-right common sense on Capitol Hill.
Maybe, just maybe, the Delaware seat isn’t as far out of reach as I thought it was on the Wednesday after O’Donnell upset the GOP establishment favorite. Yeah, she’s down a double-digit in the polls as of today, but there’s still six weeks of campaigning to go and O’Donnell is raising money from folks from coast to coast. Can she win?
Not the point.
The point of the excerpt above is to make the case for nominating risky candidates here and there on the basis of the fact that the minority party in the Senate enjoys a very powerful position. We don’t need an outright majority in the Senate like we do in the House. We just need a strong enough 41+ minority to block those measures that do not comport with our agenda. The majority just determines what measures come to the floor for debate. Ending debate requires 60+ votes, so a sizable minority lets the right begin a long term plan to establish a center-right majority while gambling in a few places that would likely have been lost anyway.
Castle was the wrong Republican. He’s a liberal. He’s no better than another Lindsey Graham. So why not go all in with a real conservative? Why not gamble on O’Donnell getting her message to Delaware voters in a way that might get her seated in a volatile year like this? Sometimes, you have to put your chips in the pot when the odds are against you. People who don’t take big risks don’t make big returns.
Krauthammer, Rove et all seem to miss this point completely. It’s Ok if a conservative-laden GOP doesn’t win the Senate in 2010. Going all-in on O’Donnell doesn’t lose the tournament. The 2010 election is one hand in a long, long process where taking a risk here or there makes sense and is part of a long term strategy.
Tens of millions more people will be voting in this off-term election than in recent such contests. There’s no reason to think that a long shot can’t win, and the way O’Donnell is raising money and managing her message, she might not be as much of a long shot as the experts think.