Moving to the Center: Necessary For Long-Term GOP Sustainability?

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Apr 30, 2009 11:03 AM
For those who are unfamiliar, the Club For Growth backs candidates in state and national elections who vigorously adhere to a limited government and low-tax agenda. No wiggle room is allowed for the candidates the Club supports - either the candidates are dedicated to decreasing the size of government and decreasing taxes, or they don't get Club for Growth money. Which is usually substantial.

The Club has been successful in the past, but in 2008, an equal number of primary and general election candidates the Club backed won and lost their races.

An article today in Roll Call (subscription required) quotes conservative House members saying that the Club is responsible for the defeat of a significant number of Republicans who, if not for Club intervention, would've been in Congress right now. Given Specter's recent departure, it's a timely look at the way conservatives should deal with moderate Republicans.

...while House Republicans expressed no remorse after Specter’s decision to abandon the GOP, many of his former colleagues agreed that the [Club's] tactics are increasingly corrosive to the party’s overall health and well-being.

“They are disgusting, I don’t admire Specter for what he did, but the Club for Growth is responsible for 12 former Republican seats now being held by Democrats,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions did not agree.

“They represent people who they know will oppose taxes and vote against [bills like] this budget,” he said. “Let’s not beat up the Club for Growth for standing for something.”
In considering both sides of this argument, I think Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) gets it right.

“There has got to be some discussion about the profile of certain districts,” he said.

It all comes down to numbers. If 30 out of 100 Senate seats are held by committed limited government types, then we're 30 seats shy of a majority and have zero chance of passing meaningful legislation. If we have 41 seats, we have the chance of filibustering legislation we don't like, and we're a little better off. If we have more than that, we can play with a few RINO's, and potentially make more progress than if we had abandoned them alltogether.

But losing a RINO like Specter is simply no fun when he's the 41st Republican. Given that reality, taking a look at the Club for Growth's current tactics probably isn't a bad idea.