These two camps are personified by two senators --Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. The former led the charge up the hill, the latter was on CNN last night with Anderson Cooper before the House even voted slagging Cruz and the rest of the GOP that wanted to fight.
This latter bit of theater enraged my audience --I played clips of Graham bashing Cruz-- and I turned the last half hour of the show over to callers only from my South Carolina affiliates, all of whom are practically begging Congressman Mick Mulvaney to take on Lindsey in the GOP primary next year. Mulvaney would easily raise millions for the Tea Party activists and the long time anti-Graham conservatives across the country, and even if unsuccessful would be positioned to succeed Nikki Haley as governor down the road, but he could win that primary. Watch that space.
A place and a race to focus anti-Beltway rage would actually be useful to the national GOP, because that anger --real and deep, fueled by the constant attacks on Cruz whom the base believe rightly to be courageous and bold-- could threaten other mainstream conservatives who don't deserve the anger, chief among them Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell did a masterful job getting the GOP off the beaches of its political Dunkirk yesterday, and there's a reason Senator Rand Paul is 100% behind McConnell --the wily Kentucky senator is a master of the Senate and the GOP needs him there. The democrats, as Karl Rove told my audience yesterday, are fully invested in doing to McConnell what the GOP did to Tom Daschle in 2004 via the election of Senator John Thune. (The transcript of my chat with Rove, including his predictions on the House and Senate in 2014, is here.)
So long-simmering GOP grassroots anger at perceived Beltway indifference if not outright condescension could poison a lot of wells next spring and summer, or it could focus on the real problem, which is the president and Harry Reid.
Imagine how this could have been different if the GOP had not punted away its Senate chances in 2010 and 2012. Well, the same opportunity is coming around a year from now, and the key Senate contests are listed here. How much better if the GOP anger streams into the battle for the Senate, not the battle to assign blame.
Look, it was a nasty defeat. No Black Knight nonsense here. But there is zero upside in making a bad situation worse with the equivalent of a GOP mob war.
Thus should the critics of Cruz stuff it, and the high lords of Castle Revenge sit down and cool off. The problem is the president and the nightmare is the combination of Obamacare eating away at domestic prosperity and security and a nuclear Iran emboldened by the president's catastrophic handling of the Syrian fiasco. It will take a weekend to let the mark wear off, but the GOP doesn't have the luxury of time to brood or scold, nor does the country.
What follows now in D.C. will depend on the conference appointees sent by the GOP to the big budget sit-down. House leadership will almost certainly disappoint the base by sending a lot of the old bulls instead of encouraging it by dispatching the new and brightest members of the Caucus to accompany Paul Ryan to the table. Another missed opportunity to message effectively probably, but who knows. It is really hard to imagine falling off this floor.
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