Sen. John Cornyn, who is spearheading the Republicans’ campaign to take back the Senate, is on a roll. The GOP snatched a seat in Massachusetts and polls favor Republicans in many key states.
But the genial Texas lawyer is facing an unusual challenge—from one of his own colleagues. Firebrand conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, breaking with the Senate’s tradition of deference, is endorsing and funding conservative candidates to challenge the party establishment’s picks. Just last week, he backed a conservative insurgent in the Colorado Republican primary over a former lieutenant governor.
The Republican Party is in play, and the passage of President Barack Obama’s health plan has inflamed the intraparty wrangling.
On one side are pragmatists like Mr. Cornyn who insist that uncompromising conservatives aren’t good bets to win swing states. On the other are purists like Mr. DeMint who want to field as many conservatives as possible to recapture the public’s trust at a moment when faith in government is at low ebb.
History suggests Mr. Cornyn’s approach is a safer bet. But recent polls suggest that in a number of states this year, the purist conservative could defeat the Democrat in the general election.
The DeMint approach: “I’m at the point where it doesn’t matter if we win if we don’t believe in anything,” the senator says. “There’s no need to nursemaid somebody to the general election if they’re just going to come up here and vote like the Democrats do.”
The Cornyn approach: “We need candidates who can win,” says Mr. Cornyn. “What we’re in the business of is reinforcing our numbers, and the only way you do that is by winning elections.”
– “GOP Bid To Reclaim Senate Fuels Fight For Party’s Soul”, The Wall Street Journal, April 20, A1