Choos­ing be­tween sheep and rock

GOP lead­er­ship prefers fol­lower to solid con­ser­va­tive

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - By David A. Keene

Illi­nois vot­ers are headed to the polls Tues­day, and while most will fo­cus on the GOP pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, at least one other con­test de­serves at­ten­tion. Other Re­pub­li­can vot­ers around the coun­try are be­ing forced to choose be­tween two in­cum­bents run­ning against each other af­ter re­dis­trict­ing, but in the newly drawn 16th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, the race be­tween veteran Rep. Don­ald A. Manzullo and fresh­man Rep. Adam Kinzinger has been one of a kind.

Mr. Manzullo, a 10-term in­cum­bent with the most con­ser­va­tive vot­ing record in his state’s del­e­ga­tion, is be­ing at­tacked as a man who has “lost his way” by young Mr. Kinzinger, who has the sup­port of House Speaker John A. Boehner and Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor. Mr. Boehner has con­trib­uted to Mr. Kinzinger, and the YG Ac­tion Fund, a su­per PAC run by close al­lies of Mr. Can­tor’s, is run­ning ads call­ing Mr. Kinzinger a “con­ser­va­tive rock in the fight against gov­ern­ment spend­ing.”

Two years ago, Mr. Kinzinger was a hero of the Tea Par­ties and of con­ser­va­tives in gen­eral; to­day, those who were with him then are sid­ing al­most unan­i­mously with Mr. Manzullo, con­tend­ing it is not the veteran but the new­comer who has lost his way. The fresh­man, from the day he ar­rived, has demon­strated a pen­chant for pub­lic­ity and has emerged as the fa­vored pro­tege of the House lead­er­ship. In the process, Mr. Kinzinger’ s crit­ics claim, he has for­got­ten in just two short years why he was sent to Washington, while Mr. Manzullo has spent 10 terms in the trenches com­pil­ing an en­vi­able record.

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to Mr. Boehner’s ap­peal for votes in a closed meet­ing of the Re­pub­li­can cau­cus be­fore the last great spend­ing deal with the White House, Mr. Kinzinger de­scribed him­self not as a “rock,” but as one of the speaker’s “sheep,” part of a flock ready to go wher­ever and do what­ever the speaker wants. This more ac­cu­rate self-de­scrip­tion ex­plains lead­er­ship’s will­ing­ness to play loose with the truth in urg­ing Illi­nois vot­ers to re-elect one of the “young guns” re­cruited by Mr. Can­tor and Cal­i­for­nia’s Rep. Kevin Mccarthy.

Mr. Manzullo claims he con­fronted Mr. Can­tor to ask why the ma­jor­ity leader was tak­ing sides in an in­cum­bent-ver­sus-in­cum­bent race and was told that it was be­cause he al­ready has a “ma­jor in­vest­ment” in Mr. Kinzinger and is go­ing to pro­tect it. That may be un­der­stand­able, but far less un­der­stand­able is Mr. Can­tor’s will­ing­ness to go “all in” for a man who is any­thing but the rock-solid con­ser­va­tive de­scribed in his su­per PAC’S ra­dio ads.

Mr. Kinzinger has at­tacked Mr. Manzullo for vot­ing to in­crease the debt limit with­out men­tion­ing that he did the same thing him­self or ex­plain­ing why his sup­port of or­ga­nized la­bor and the Davis-ba­con Act has gar­nered him union sup­port in a race against a con­ser­va­tive. A labor­fi­nanced su­per PAC, the Lunch Pail Repub­li­cans, has be­gun run­ning ads for Mr. Kinzinger, as has an­other PAC that was ac­tive in sup­port­ing Ohio Rep. Den­nis Kucinich’s un­suc­cess­ful ef­fort to hold onto his seat.

Mr. Manzullo bests his op­po­nent in the rank­ings of just about ev­ery con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion one can name. The Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union rates him at 96, as com­pared to Mr. Kinzinger’s 72; the Club for Growth scores Mr. Manzullo at 85, with Mr. Kinzinger at 56; and the Na­tional Jour­nal com­pos­ite con­ser­va­tive score (for those seek­ing the judg­ment of a non­con­ser­va­tive source) gives Mr. Manzullo a 74 and Mr. Kinzinger a 58.

As a re­sult, vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­ser­va­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion that en­dorses can­di­dates has spo­ken up in fa­vor of Mr. Manzullo. The list in­cludes the ACUPAC, the Free­dom­works PAC, Illi­nois Ea­gle Forum, Illi­nois Cit­i­zens for Life, the Illi­nois Tea Party and dozens of oth­ers.

Mr. Kinzinger, in con­trast, has Mr. Boehner, Mr. Can­tor, or­ga­nized la­bor and, fi­nally, the “mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­can” Main­street Part­ner­ship, a group the young con­gress­man re­cently joined.

Mr. Kinzinger’s sup­port­ers claim — when they aren’t busy dis­tort­ing the records of the two in­cum­bents — that it’s time for Mr. Manzullo to go be­cause he’s too old and has been around too long. Mr. Manzullo is not flashy, but solid. He knows what he be­lieves and rarely de­vi­ates. He fol­lows his lead­er­ship when he can but votes his con­science when he is caught be­tween the de­mands of party and prin­ci­ple. He may lose to­day be­cause Mr. Kinzinger has the money and sup­port he needs to win, but you can­not pre­dict the votes of men and women who want their rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Washington to rep­re­sent them rather than sim­ply fol­low his party lead­ers — like sheep.

Mr. Can­tor and his al­lies seem to have lost the abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween a rock and a sheep and are sim­ply dou­bling down on­what has turned out to be a bad in­vest­ment for vot­ers but a good buy for lead­ers seek­ing fol­low­ers who al­ways will be pre­pared to do their bid­ding.


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