Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Elephant Dung #12: Republican organization targets Scott Brown

Tracking the GOP Civil War

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

Woe is Scott Brown.

Once a huge Republican star, back when he won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and for a brief moment turned Massachusetts a little bit red, back when Republicans spun his win as a referendum defeat for Obama, back when it looked like his election would derail health-care reform, Brown is now in the party's "crosshairs," as Republicans like to say, a target of the right's purification campaign to rid the party of anyone and everything not sufficiently conservative (in a rigid, ideological, far-right way).

And even some of those who were once firmly behind him have now turned on him:

A Republican organization that backed Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) with independent expenditures and fundraising assistance says it will work to defeat Brown in a Republican primary next year in order to protect the party's brand.

Scott Wheeler, who heads the National Republican Trust PAC, said the group never expected Brown to toe a consistently conservative line, given his home state. But Brown's vote for the New START Treaty with Russia in late 2010 was a bridge too far, Wheeler said.

Now, to keep this in perspective, the NRT PAC isn't a huge organization with vast resources. Still, turning on Brown could lead to others doing the same:

[T]he PAC has a national network of donors, and Wheeler promised he would use the committee's resources against Brown.

"We're going to finance a primary opponent," he said. "I might even ask him to give our money back."

To Brown's credit -- even if he knows that he has to be somewhat moderate to play well back home -- he has been one of the few Republicans to break from the party's intransigent obstructionism. He may once have voted against Red Cross volunteers, but he did, as senator, vote with the Democrats to move a jobs bill forward, as well as against a Republican filibuster of an unemployment benefits and tax credits bill. And then he voted not just for New START but for DADT repeal as well. That's not a bad record for a Republican...

Unless you're a Republican and your party is turning against you because -- how dare you! -- you voted with Obama and the Democrats on something and aren't as extremist as most of the rest of the GOP.

Brown is quite popular in Massachusetts and may well defeat any right-wing challenger. Indeed, he may just win re-election. At the very least, Republicans would be stupid not to pick him, as he's their only chance for victory. (And Massachusetts isn't, say, Utah, so the right, including the Tea Party, may not prevail even in a primary vote that generally rewards right-wing turnout and grassroots campaigning.)

But it's a sign of the times, and a sign of where the Republican Party is (and is heading), that a popular and, in Massachusetts, electable moderate (relatively speaking) is being targeted by some in his own party. (I suspect that the national and state party establishments will stand by him.) He's just not Republican enough, you see -- not enough of what the likes of Limbaugh and Palin want.

Better to be "right" than to win, it would seem, even if so many Republicans crazily think that the best way to win is to move further and further to the right. And that's fine for Democrats, who should be able to pick up a Senate seat in Massachusetts if the Republicans are stupid enough to purify success out of the party.

So, absolutely, let's hope Republicans really do see Scott Brown as a pro-Obama liberal who will vote with the Democrats. (That's what he is, isn't he? Isn't he one of us? Yes, Republicans, you can trust us!)

And let's hope Brown gets the primary challenger he deserves.

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