What's With Republicans? (The Case for Supporting Toomey Now)

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 12, 2009 3:52 PM
Now that Tom Ridge has announced he will not run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, some Republicans inside and outside Pennsylvania are scrambling to find a second-tier (or even third-tier) moderate candidate to run against Pat Toomey in the Republican primary. 

These names run the gamut from the oft-mentioned Representative Jim Gerlach (PA-06) to the more obscure Mark DeSantis. Again, the problem is that none of these candidates are likely to be able to best Toomey in a Republican primary election.

The list of Gerlach’s 'greatest hits' is long, but his violation of his taxpayer pledge not to raise taxes is at the top of the list.  According to Americans for Tax Reform, Rep. Gerlach signed the group’s pledge not to raise taxes for the 110th Congress, but then proceeded to vote for an energy tax -- not once, but twice.  How will that go over in a Republican primary?  But don't forget Gerlach’s votes to spend taxpayer dollars on numerous pork projects, from a national grape and wine initiative to a Virginia science museum to a Connecticut aquarium

He also voted against the more fiscally responsible Republican Study Committee budget every year (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) -- voted several times (2005, 2006) against allowing drilling for oil in ANWR -- and voted for TARP, and to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill.  And though he voted against Card Check, he also voted against Republican efforts to protect a worker’s right to a secret ballot in the unionization process.

Just by referencing the things I've just listed, Toomey would never run out of voter mail or TV ad topics.  I can hear the narrator now: "He promised not to raise our taxes ..."

Rep. Gerlach is selling himself a fiscal conservative, but Republican primary voters won’t buy it.  His record tells a very different story. I'm also concerned by the many desperate attempts to recruit moderate candidates into this race.  The premise, of course, is that Toomey can't win.  He can.  And as far as the general election goes, Toomey won in his Democratic leaning district of Pennsylvania-15 with far more impressive electoral margins than Gerlach in his own similarly Democratic district of Pennsylvania-06. Instead of flailing around pining for a Republican version of Arlen Specter, the Republican establishment -- inside and outside Pennsylvania -- should get its act together and rally around Toomey. 

That is the only way the GOP is going to keep the seat come November 2010.  With Ridge remaining in the private sector, it is abundantly clear that Pat Toomey is going to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.  Republicans should stop their hemming and hawing, their subtle undercuts and not-so-subtle undercuts, and get with the program.

With Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak talking like he is going to jump into the race to challenge Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination, Republicans should seize this opportunity to rally around the eventual nominee while the Democrats bloody themselves up in a contentious primary over the next year.