In the state of Florida, there is a national battle over the future of the Republican party.
Yesterday, The Washington Times wrote this about the primary race between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio: “Florida a bellwether for rebranding.”
The Florida seat is an open one, with no incumbent. Current Sen. Mel Martinez is retiring. While Crist would like to pretend to be the incumbent, he is not.
In the Florida primary, it’s all about spending and taxing, issues that are not typically considered to be “controversial” issues with the Republican party of the past 25 years. But, since about 1998, DC Republicans have gradually lost their way, so much so that party elites now consider higher taxes and wasteful spending to be mainstream; reformers are considered to be “too conservative.” Governor Crist represents the modern party only in the sense that modern party leaders are out of touch with the voters and have led Republicans into an unnecessarily small minority status in Washington.
Gov. Crist is talking about “less taxes, less government, and more freedom,” but his actions have not demonstrated much passion for those principles. In early 2009, he energetically campaigned with Obama for the ineffective, wasteful “stimulus” that received no Republican votes in the US House, and only 3 Republican votes in the US Senate (with one of those “Republicans” being now-Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennyslvania).
In late May 2009, Crist broke a no-new-tax pledge that he had made in 2006, prior to becoming governor. Just a few days later, in early June, Crist broke that pledge a second time. The Club for Growth PAC wrote:
Charlie Crist would fit in well with Washington’s tax-and-spend crowd. This week, he increased the amount of unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses by over 20 percent.
It is the second tax increase signed by Crist in one week, with the first being a cigarette tax hike of $1 per pack. The new law hits businesses on an additional $1,500 of an employee’s wages. Currently, employers pay unemployment taxes on $7,000 of each worker’s wages – now, that goes up to $8,500. (“Crist Signs Bill,” Jacksonville Observer, 6/3/09).
Crist had firmly committed to oppose new taxes as Governor, but he broke that pledge.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is charged with building a strong presence in the US Senate. NRSC leaders are elected by the Republican members of the Senate. Initially, NRSC chief and Texas Senator John Cornyn was planning on remaining neutral in the Florida primary race, but he soon changed his mind, deciding to endorse Crist over Rubio. Appropriately, the GOP base, overwhelmingly conservative, protested Cornyn’s move.
With regard to a St. Petersburgh Times, Florida, headline that read “Gov. Crist signs $66.5 billion budget, breaks tax pledge,” Redstate.com editor Erick Erickson wrote “The headline says it all.” Erickson said, “There remains no compelling reason for the National Republican Senatorial Committee to have endorsed Charlie Crist. None.”
Erickson formed a Facebook group titled, “Not one penny to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.” The group says:
First they supported Chafee.
Then they supported Specter.
Now they support Crist.
I pledge to give no money, no support, no aid, and no help at all to the efforts of the NRSC.
1,624 people have joined the Facebook group.
The Crist endorsement is not the only sign of disconnect within the NRSC. Cornyn failed to predict Arlen Specter’s April 28 defection to the Democratic party. Former conservative Congressman Pat Toomey had announced a challenge to Specter in the 2010 GOP Senate primary. In early-to-mid April, Cornyn said, “”My job as head of the NRSC is to guide the GOP back to a majority in the Senate. I can’t do that without Arlen Specter.” Just weeks later, Specter was a Democrat, and Cornyn was writing a $5,000 check to Toomey’s campaign.
And even after Specter had left the Republican party, long-time Utah Senator and NRSC Vice Chairman Orrin Hatch (also apparently unaware of Specter’s intentions to switch parties) was still talking down Toomey’s chances of winning the general election.
On the Fourth of July, Sen. John Cornyn, who supported the TARP bank bailout program, returned to Texas’ Capital City of Austin for a tea party, and was “was booed at the start and close of his remarks.”
“You’re the problem,” someone yelled.
FreedomWorks.org has a copy of the YouTube video of the Texas crowd’s displeasure with Cornyn.
While the NRSC’s leadership is lacking, other, more reliable conservative groups are stepping up to the plate. In Florida, the Club for Growth is “concerned” about Crist and “impressed” with Rubio. Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, whose “no-new-tax” pledge was signed and then discarded by Gov. Crist, calls Rubio “the most pro-taxpayer legislative leader in the country.”
It’s almost certain that the winner of the 2010 Republican Senate primary between Congressman Jerry Moran and Congressman Todd Tiahrt will then go on to win the general election. In 2011, one of them will be voting on the leadership at the NRSC.
This week, we will forward this editorial to the respective campaigns of Moran and Tiahrt, and ask them what their feelings are with regard to the current performance of the NRSC under John Cornyn. In particular: should the NRSC remain neutral in the Florida primary race between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio?
Near the end of next week, we’ll let you know what we hear back from Congressmen Moran and Tiahrt.
Tags: 2010, bailout, club for growth, cornyn, Crist, Florida, grover norquist, hatch, moran, NRSC, primary, republican, Rubio, stimulus, Tiahrt