If the country is going to make the U-turn that it needs to make in 2013, it will need not only a new president but also a Senate of at least 51 Republicans and hopefully closer to 60.
To reach the first number, the GOP is counting on wins by George Allen in Virginia, and Denny Rehberg in Montana. These two men are experienced and very able champions of conservatism whose records are well known and who are asking their state electorates to simply return to the traditional voting patterns from which they departed in the awful GOP year of 2006. Given the president’s abysmal record and the hard-left lurch he led the country on, Allen and Rehberg should be part of the GOP return to the majority.
Along with these three traditional candidates there is a quartet of very different GOP candidates who, while they will be very solid conservative votes in the Senate, represent a new generation of Republican rising stars: Jon Bruning in Nebraska, Ted Cruz in Texas, Adam Hasner in Florida and Josh Mandel in Ohio.
Cruz is 41. Bruning and Hasner are 42. Mandel is an ancient 33, but his two tours as a marine in Iraq count for extra credit in the actual experience department.
How different are these four from the typical Republican Senate candidate? Hasner and Mandel are Jewish. Ted Cruz is, like Marco Rubio, the son of a Cuban exile, and Jon Bruning has already been in statewide office for just under a decade, having first been elected Nebraska’s top law enforcement official in 2002, having already served in the state senate for six years.
Cruz has not held elected office but served five years as the Solicitor of the state of Texas –the youngest Solicitor General in the country-- taking and winning crucial states’ rights and religious freedom arguments in front of the Supreme Court and key federal appellate courts. He has already argued nine times before the Supreme Court and is considered among the top Constitutional lawyers and appellate advocates in the country.
Hasner served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, concluding his time there as the Speaker of that House, and was Marco Rubio’ close ally throughout.
Mandel is the Buckeye State’s Treasurer, winning that job last year and pulling the most votes of any statewide candidate when he did so. Mandel had previously served two terms in the Ohio House (and also a stint as class body president of The Ohio State University, which goes a very long way in Ohio.)
These four candidates alone would represent a renaissance of Republican thought among a new generation of Senate members that already counts Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Kelly Ayotte and Pat Toomey among the very visible, highly effective defenders of freedom and free markets in D.C.
Each of these four candidates may face primary opponents, so the National Republican Senatorial Committee will no doubt stay far away from the campaigns until they win their party’s nominations, but the Tea Party and traditional grassroots activists do not need to be shy about sending assistance and endorsements to these movement conservatives who understand the pressing need for a reformation inside the Beltway.
There are other opportunities for the Republicans to win key Senate seats held by Democrats. Many are watching the races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico and Washington State to see if conservative champions will emerge to challenge for current occupied or open Democratic seats. Given the turbulent political times, Democrats in usually reliable states like New York and New Jersey might also find themselves in tight races, while even an “invincible” like California’s Dianne Feinstein has seen her once formidable approval ratings crumble as the public loses faith in the misguided trio of Obama-Pelosi-Reid.
The feel of 2011 is very similar to 1979, and if the historic election night of 1980 finds a parallel in next year’s voting, all sorts of long-serving Democrats who cooperated in the fiscal fiasco of the past four years will be looking for work in January 2013.
To get to that happy and urgently necessary result, however, the key candidacies of Bruning, Cruz, Hasner and Mandel –such a law firm it would make except Mandel isn’t a lawyer—need early financial support from across the country to both win their primaries and build the network for next fall.
I hope the four of them will conduct a cross-country blitz together, laying down a platform of conservative renewal and youthful energy backed by real experience in governing and service.
But don’t wait for them to show up in your town. Celebrate the approach of the 4th of July with contributions to these candidates –and Rehberg and Allen—as the expression of your resolve to send a new president the sort of senators with who he (or she) can work to turn the country around. The Senate needs a massive infusion of new blood championing the great ideas that have powered America. We are blessed to have just such candidates in 2012.