GOP right cheers Michigan upset
Rep. Joe Schwarz campaigned personally with Sen. John McCain and had the support of President Bush — but what the incumbent didn’t havewastheright positions on issues for aconservativeRepublican district in Michigan.
His loss in the Aug. 8 primary to conservative state lawmaker Tim Walberg is beingreadinWashington as a message to other Republicans about the need to control spending and listen to the conservative base on issues such as immigration and abortion.
Although the defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic primary has garnered the most attention, Mr.Schwarz’s loss indicates that Republican voters may be just as restless.
“Republicans the same day learned, ‘Don’t spend too much money. It’s not good for your political health,’ “ said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. He said Republican politics has entered a new chapter in which a lawmaker’s votes on spending will bemuchmorecloselyscrutinizedby voters.
Mr. Schwarz signed the group’s pledgenot to raise taxes in 2004,and Mr. Norquist said he did vote for tax cuts. ButMr.Norquist said, “There’s ahigherstandardnow:Whatareyou doing to cut spending?”
Other Republicans saw Mr. Schwarz’s position on immigration — he tied himself to Mr. McCain’s plan for guestworkersandrepeated Mr.Bush’sdeclaration that thecountry cannot deport an estimated 12 million illegal aliens — hurt him.
“McCain and Bush are presently notthebest allies for aprimary,”one RepublicanaideonCapitol Hill said. “When immigration is the party’s No. 1 primary issue, why surround yourself with the party’s two least credible sources on the issue?”
Mr.Walbergwon53percent to 47 percent to oust Mr. Schwarz, who was first elected in 2004.
“Timranon limiting government spending, reducing taxes, defining traditional marriage, standing up for the culture of life,” said Joe Wicks, Mr. Walberg’s campaign manager.“Thoseweretheeconomic issues that is the base, the key of the Republican Party.”
The conservative group Club for Growth also played a key role in the race. The group and its supporters spent more than $1 million promoting Mr. Walberg as a true fiscal conservativeandattackingMr.Schwarz as a big government, wastefulspending, liberal Republican.
Pat Toomey, the group’s president, said Mr. Schwarz’s loss shows there’s a strong anti-spending sentiment among Republicans.
“It’s thestrongestmessagesofar” on the need to cut spending, Mr. Toomey said. “It shows that voters are very attuned to this issue.”
Bill Rustem, president of Public Sector Consultants, a nonpartisan public policy think tank in Lansing, Mich., said the loss is less a matter of issues than of simple math.
In 2004, Mr. Schwarz was the most liberal candidate in a race that featured several conservatives, who split the base vote. This time, Mr. Walberg was the only alternative to Mr.Schwarz, giving conservatives a clear choice, Mr. Rustem said.
Mr. Toomey, though, said that argument doesn’t minimize the significance because this was the first time that a Republican incumbent had lost in what he called an ideological-based primary — one in which there were no redistricting conflicts or other external factors — since 1994.
Embracing Sen. John McCain and President Bush appeared to have backfired for Rep. Joe Schwarz, Michigan Republican, seen here with supporters Norman and Taleyah Norwood before his primary loss.