Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elephant Dung #4: Murkowski blames DeMint for failure to win Senate

Tracking the GOP Civil War

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

It's just the second day of this series and we're already on to #4. And even then I'm having to be selective. It hasn't taken long for the post-election smugness to disintegrate.

Lisa Murkowski is already on the fringe of the GOP, having lost the Alaska Senate primary to Teabagger Joe Miller and then (it would appear) winning as a write-in candidate and triumphing over Sarah Palin's Tea Party GOP.

And now she's pointing fingers:

After ripping Sarah Palin, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski isn't mincing words about another one of her high-profile GOP critics: South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.

"I think some of the Republicans in the Congress feel pretty strongly that he and his actions potentially cost us the majority by encouraging candidates that ended up not being electable," Murkowski told POLITICO outside her Senate office. "And I think Delaware is a pretty good example of that, and I think there're some folks that feel that DeMint's actions didn't necessarily help the Republican majority."

Murkowski suggested the South Carolina conservative and favorite of the tea party seemed more interested in bolstering his own political standing rather than that of the Republican Party.

"So the real question is, what's his desire?" she said. "Does he want to help the Republican majority, or is he on his own agenda, his own initiative?"

Asked what she believed the answer was, Murkowksi said: "I think he's out for his own initiative."

Well, yes, probably so. DeMint has already scored a significant win over Mitch McConnell's establishment on earmarks, securing a two-year ban that McConnell initially opposed, and he's emerged as an influential leader on the right of the party. Can there be any doubt that he wants to take over?

And Murkowski is right that DeMint and Palin and the other Tea Party Republicans, going way back to the primaries, backed candidates that were either completely unelectable (Christine O'Donnell in Delaware) or that otherwise seriously weakened Republican prospects for victory (Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, John Raese in West Virginia). There's no reason Republicans couldn't have won in Nevada, Colorado, and West Virginia with less extreme and generally more appealing nominees, and even Delaware was winnable.

The thing is, it's not as simple as that. Republicans did well this year in part because of the "enthusiasm gap," that is, because their base was engaged and committed. And the base this year included the Tea Party, which injected a great deal of vigour into the Republican Party at a time, not long after Obama took office, when its prospects looked bleak. So, sure, maybe Republicans could have won in those states, but without Palin and DeMint and the Tea Party revving up the enthusiasm across the country would they have won, say, in Illinois or Pennsylvania? Perhaps not.

So while Murkowski may be right about DeMint's failures, she does not seem to take into account the fact that the Republican Party did so well this year to a great extent because it had embraced the Tea Party and linked itself to just the sort of extremism DeMint and Palin represent.

Anyway, far be it from me to want to put a stop to this. Let the blame game continue!

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