Pri­mary dis­sent a good sign for Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JACQUELINE KLIMAS

Some of the fiercest pri­mary bat­tles this midterm sea­son are on the Repub­li­can side — which may be bad news for Democrats.

While sev­eral Se­nate Repub­li­cans face mul­ti­ple pri­mary chal­lengers, Democrats for the most part have avoided nasty and ex­pen­sive in­ter­nal bat­tles to pick their can­di­dates for Novem­ber. But po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say that may re­flect a vig­or­ous de­bate in­side the GOP and an ex­pec­ta­tion by Repub­li­can can­di­dates that this is an ex­cel­lent year to be on the bal­lot.

Dan Holler, a spokesman for the con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist group Her­itage Ac­tion for Amer­ica, said the wealth of pri­mary fights re­flects a strug­gle for power among Repub­li­can fac­tions, of­ten with es­tab­lish­ment and busi­ness-backed can­di­dates fac­ing chal­lenges from tea party ri­vals. Part of the ri­valry, he said, re­flects a tug of war over the party’s pri­or­i­ties in the wide-open race for the 2016 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

“There’s a lot more di­ver­sity of opin­ion within the Repub­li­can Party than the Demo­cratic Party,” Mr. Holler said. “Is it go­ing to be a party that’s just slightly dif­fer­ent from the Demo­cratic Party or a party that ac­tu­ally tries to do what they prom­ise to, which is limit size and scope of govern­ment?”

Poll­sters and pun­dits gen­er­ally project Repub­li­cans to re­tain con­trol of the House and to make a strong bid for the net six seats needed to cap­ture the Se­nate ma­jor­ity. But Repub­li­cans’ fo­cus on pri­mary bat­tles could give Democrats lo­gis­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial head starts in some key races this fall.

Only two Se­nate Democrats — Hawaii’s Brian Schatz and Mon­tana’s John E. Walsh, both ap­pointees — are ex­pected to have se­ri­ous pri­mary chal­lenges this year.

Repub­li­can vet­er­ans in the Se­nate, in­clud­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of North Carolina and Sen. Thad Cochran of Mis­sis­sippi, face pri­mary bat­tles.

In crit­i­cal states such as Ge­or­gia and Iowa, Democrats have co­a­lesced around sin­gle can­di­dates while Repub­li­cans en­gage in bat­tles to de­ter­mine their nom­i­nees.

En­dan­gered Demo­cratic in­cum­bents such as Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay R. Ha­gan of North Carolina al­ready are fo­cused on Novem­ber, but Repub­li­cans have yet to set­tle on their chal­lengers.

In states where Repub­li­cans have united be­hind strong can­di­dates — such as West Vir­ginia, Colorado and Arkansas — the elec­tions are seen as good op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick up Se­nate seats. But the bulk of the tough­est pri­mary bat­tles re­main in­side the GOP.

Such rest­less­ness and con­flict are typ­i­cal for the party that doesn’t con­trol the White House, said Laura Brown, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Grad­u­ate School of Po­lit­i­cal Man­age­ment at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity.

“Po­lit­i­cal par­ties in their wilder­ness years, when they’re out of the White House, they tend to go through this sel­f­re­flec­tive time frame, and the par­ties them­selves start to es­sen­tially fight over which di­rec­tion is go­ing to bring them back to the pres­i­dency,” she said, not­ing that Democrats went through a sim­i­lar pe­riod of in­ter­nal bat­tles in the 1980s.

Jim Man­ley, a Demo­cratic strate­gist, said the po­lit­i­cal land­scape re­flects in­creased unity in the party.

“I think the rea­son why there are very few pri­mary chal­lenges is be­cause there’s no equiv­a­lent of the tea party on the Demo­cratic side,” Mr. Man­ley said. “There are some on the left that are try­ing to make some noise, but with very few ex­cep­tions, they’re not run­ning to try to pri­mary an in­cum­bent.”

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