The Real Winner of the Republican Primaries

September 15th, 2010 at 8:22 am | 80 Comments |

| Print

The long election cycle of 2010 is finally (almost) over. Yes, diagnosis the general election still remains, recipe but that’s almost an afterthought, since it is shaping to be the most boring and inconsequential federal election in a generation (seriously, will it make any real practical difference whether the Republicans pick 5 or 50 House seats?). The real action in this election cycle was in the Republican primaries, they are almost over, and we already know who won: (drum roll, please!) President Obama. American conservatives have suffered a crushing and lasting defeat. The center of gravity in American politics has shifted permanently and irreversibly to the left (and conservative ideology will eventually follow).

The saddest thing is that this conservative calamity is mostly self-inflicted. More and more conservatives get Oprah-cized (one of their favorite leaders, Sarah Palin is sometimes called “the conservative Oprah”, and in my humble opinion Glenn Beck deserves that title too). They now believe that expressing their feelings (e.g. by nominating quixotic candidates) is more important than trying to influence government policies (e.g. by nominating viable candidates). They withdraw from practical politics and instead join a protest movement. They march in the streets in tricorn hats while the liberals (whom they unwittingly help to put in office) are creating new entitlements and raising taxes.

Obama’s biggest victory so far has been in the Pennsylvania Republican primary, and it occurred a whole year before any votes were actually cast: a strong primary challenge prompted Sen. Specter to change parties, and that gave the Democrats the magic 60 votes that they needed to pass Obamacare without any sort of compromise with Republicans. Apparently, for some conservatives that was an acceptable price for purging an elderly RINO. But there were many other victories as well. Many vulnerable Democratic congressional candidates got their dream opponents (the latest example is Christine O’Donnell – unfortunately, just one of many, way too many, examples). So the GOP gains in November will be smaller than they could be. Furthermore, a lot of those gains will be easily reversible. In 2012 Obama will be on the ballot, and that will almost certainly increase the Democratic turnout (just as in 2008). Many Republicans who manage to squeak by this year will not survive 2012. And it can be even worse than in 2008 since not only will a lot of newly won Republicans seats be in danger, but some long-held seats will be in play as well, because in this year’s primaries retiring GOP congressmen and even some incumbents (not only moderates but also real conservatives like Bennett in the Senate and Inglis in the House!) were replaced with candidates who may be too conservative for their districts.

Even if Republicans capture the House this November, they will have a barely functional majority – a 225-210 split is about the best we can realistically hope for – and will be almost certain to lose the House again in 2012, potentially even by a worse margin than in 2008. Such a scenario would be devastating to conservative causes, since Obama would claim that his own re-election victory combined with his party wrestling the House from the GOP (and expanding their Senate majority) gives him a clear mandate to implement his agenda (rather than pursue bipartisanship). And make no mistake, that’s the mandate Obama plans to get before pursuing his remaining agenda. All the talk about the importance of this year’s election in stopping Obama is just talk. There’s nothing to stop! Obama was done with his first term several months ago. He knew from the very start that his popularity would decline and that his party would likely lose seats in the midterm elections, so he could not have possibly planned to leave any important part of his first-term agenda for the second half of that term. He did what he could (and that’s a lot) in the first 18 months or so, and the rest will just have to wait for a new mandate. If anything, a small and rudderless (but increasingly ideological) GOP majority in the House will actually make it easier for Obama to win re-election.

Obamacare is not the only lasting effect from this year’s primaries. The Senate seats that the Republicans threw away (the seat in Delaware has just been added to this list) will now be in the hands of Democrats for 6 years, and some of them will not realistically come into play again for much longer than that. Who knows, the Republican president in 2025 (I’m not very optimistic we will see one earlier than that) may have some important part of his agenda derailed because of coming up one Senate vote short (thanks to a Democrat rather than Republican representing Delaware).

But there are still even worse and more lasting effects – which we will never be able to quantify. We will never know how many talented young people contemplating entering Republican politics (especially in swing states) will decide to pursue other career options instead because of all the ugliness they saw in this primary season (nor how many congressional Republicans will retire earlier than they otherwise would). But we can be sure that conservatism will be suffering for decades because of their decisions.

Recent Posts by Andrew Pavelyev

80 Comments so far ↓

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    Watusie, I a concede your point that running for U.S. senate should not involve discussing this topic. My purpose was merely to rebut the suggestion above that she was some kind of extremist. She is not. She is a Catholic who is stating the views of the Church. I assume she like all of us struggle to some degree with virtue. She actualy came across in that abc interview this morning as a fairly ordinary individual.

    Ericinca, I think the TPers would say that political truth comes from the Declaration and Constitution which are in turn based on God-given natural rights.

  • Watusie

    Fairy, “fairly ordinary individual”?

    Fairly ordinary individuals have jobs, or some visible means of financial support. What is O’Donnell’s?

    Kristin Murray, O’Donnell’s 2008 campaign manager” “O’Donnell is living on campaign donations — using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.”

  • parsifal

    To ericinca:

    I love this site! Intelligent conservatives for a change! You are the third or fourth person here today who see what is going on in the alleged “conservative” movement and why it is destructive.

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    Watusie, I don’t know what she has been doing for a living. I was commenting only on her demeanor in the interview. She was not a smooth talking pol nor was she the queen of rhetoric. She did stand up for her self in a fairly decent way. I suspect that Ms. Murray, being a former campaign manager is not privy to the details of CO’s finances today, but I could be wrong.


    Andrew, not so sure that 2012 will be the Obama-led cakewalk that you presume. Obviously, it depends on the economy. However, the Republican base will be just as fired up as Democrats (unless, the party goes nuts and nominates a divisive figure like Palin). Democrats are defending a lot of freshman senators elected in the 2006 wave — never an easy task. And, you can’t ignore the fact that several of the supposedly “crazy” candidates nominated by the GOP this year are quite competitive in with the Democratic general election opponents.

  • TerryF98

    Chris Coons (D) 50 (44)
    Christine O’Donnell (R) 34 (37) PPP todays poll

    “If Castle had won he would have received more Democratic support than any other Republican Senate candidate in the country. Now our polling suggests with O’Donnell’s victory that Coons will win more Republicans than any other Democratic Senate candidate in the country. That’s because of a general unwillingness to support O’Donnell from Castle’s moderate base- folks from the centrist wing of the GOP are planning to support Coons 54-31. Overall he takes a full 25% of the GOP vote while also largely consolidating the Democratic base for a 72-13 lead on that front. He also has a narrow 42-36 advantage with independents, a group Democrats are losing with most everywhere else”

    Sure looks like O’Donnell is competitive to me. :-)

  • Watusie

    So, Fairy, you are happy to come onto this site and say how great it is that a Tea Party candidate won even though you actually know nothing about that candidate? Perhaps you should turn to sports rather than politics where blind partisanship has no actual consequences.

  • Watusie

    TerryF98 – also: O’Donnell received less than 30,000 votes in a closed primary. Democrats have a registration advantage in Delaware of 293,000 to 183,000 Republicans.

  • TerryF98

    Watusie, reality sucks for the deluded here, please don’t confuse them with facts. As this is a PPP poll and not a Rasswhatever poll it will mean nothing to the ideologue zealots.

  • moderategoper

    Moderate Republicans need to stop being selfish and put their money together and fight to take our Party back, they need to start a grassroots movement online. Castle lost because he thought only about “his campaign” he and other moderates forgot the grassroots. There are many, many moderate Republicans in the grassroots and people like Castle have failed to reach out to them and empower them. Put some money into a blogs and organizations and help build a centrist grassroots movement in our party and stop sitting on your ass. To people like Castle, you brought this on yourself by failing to see that your party has been hijacked.

    Instead of fighting back and helping to build a powerful centrist infrastructure, you waited and now you’re gone. Now that these centrist Republicans have lost, the question is will they spend the time and money to fight back and take the party back or will they cry like little children? I say fight back, stand up and take your freaking Party back! – This is war folks; there is no other way to say it.

    Why Moderate Republicans Suck –

  • ericinca

    “Ericinca, I think the TPers would say that political truth comes from the Declaration and Constitution which are in turn based on God-given natural rights.”

    Two points:

    1) The “Declaration,” which was addressed to an 18th century foreign monarch, has no legal bearing on any law signed by any President, ever. You might approve of it’s political wisdom, but in US courts it is not a source of political truth.

    2) The Constitution is based on God-given natural rights? You mean, for instance, the God-given right to possess slaves?

    There only thing naturally true about the Constitution is that its content and how we understand its content are subject to change—as its authors, in their humility, intended. (Were that not the case there would be no need for the courts.) So given its intentional—and inevitable—mutability, the Constitution is a rather unstable source of “political truth.”

    In a democracy, “political truth” comes from the people. Period.

    You’ll forgive me for declining to listen to the “political truth” of people like Sarah Palin and Glen Beck and for aligning myself with other, more sensible people, insofar as I align myself with anyone.

  • TerryF98

    You guys really think Christine O’Donnell can win a general election with this much embarrassing baggage? Prove it.

    “I believe the questions [about] why she had a problem for five years with paying her federal income taxes, why her house was foreclosed on and put up for sale, why it took 16 years to settle her college debt and get her diploma while she went around for years claiming she was a college graduate,” Rove said. “I think a lot of voters in Delaware are going to want more than she is offering to them right now, and we’ll see.”"

    Looks like Rove is a big fan!

  • Krom

    The GOP leadership has shown relatively few signs of being interested in anything except nonsense, so for individual moderate Republicans to come out in favor of centrism would likely just create friction that wouldn’t work in their favor.

  • Primary Night: Good For Teabags, Even Better For Democrats « Alan Colmes' Liberaland

    [...] some conservatives like David Frum are seeing yesterday’s primaries as bad news for the [...]

  • hminton

    What is also not being discussed is that the entire millineal generation will be of voting age in the 2018 election. They are the most socially liberal generation in amerIcan history and lean democrat. They will outnumber baby boomers by about 14 million in 2018. A majority believe in a government role in society, climate change, gay marriage, helping others in need, amongst other things and I dont see republican dominance happening for decades and especially now in this toxic environment. The dems are not playing a short game like the teabaggers, they are playing for the long term. This is why I have hope for my future and my young daughters and really dont care what happens in November cause in 2 years its over and in a mear 8, the game changes for a very long time..

  • armstp


    > this is a Republican recession. The 8 million jobs lost were the result of the recession that started in 2007. If you look at the numbers when Obamas policies actually began to kick in which was about mid-2009, the job losses had stopped by then. Everyone knows that Bush left us with this economic mess.

    > I don’t think Dems have dug any graves. I think they will surprise in Nov. I detect no particularly new enthusiasm for the Republicans out there. There is no evidence that voters are turning to the Republicans in massive numbers.

    > There is much analysis of Rasmussen’s numbers out there. They are consistently bias toward the Republicans. Their track record is also not that great. You have to look at the way they do their polling. They tend to be good at predicting an outcome within the few weeks just before an election (as they change their methodology to better reflect likely voters), but are horrible when predicting further in the future because of their bias polling and different likely voter definition. Why would you not look at average polls for a more accurate reflection of voters and only rely on one polling company?


    > “every economic indicator suggests we are heading into a double-dip recession, or more accurately that we never emerged from the first dip.”

    Not sure where you are getting this. First of all the stock market has been up over the last few weeks reflecting the drop in concern of a double dip. GDP growth has remained positive. For GDP to go into the negative we would have to have much worse issues in the economy right now, which we do not. Only thing lagging is unemployment, which is a lagging indicator. Corporate profits have returned to pre-recession levels. Very few economists are saying that we are going into a double dip. The average consensus GDP growth for the second half of 2010 is still +2.5%.

    > “politicians have made economic promises that we cannot afford to keep.” Christie will be no different. Easy to spout the rhetoric, but different to govern in an economic downturn, no matter if Democratic or Republican.

  • ericinca


    You present us with the principle difference in the demeanors of conservatives and liberals.

    Conservatives are OUTRAGED because they are attempting to return us to the past. Their political philosophy is founded on the principle of loss—the lost past. Consequently, conservatism is the politics of bitterness. Conservatives look through the window of experience and watch the world being carried off by the foolish (yet beautiful) young, and they seethe with resentment, frustration, and fear. Their situation is literally hopeless. The world they knew is forever lost.

    Liberals, on the other hand, are IMPATIENT. Their political philosophy is founded on the principle of potential—the future, which, like the past, never arrives. So liberalism is the politics of yearning, of adventure, of curiosity. A liberal’s situation is not hopeless but founded on hope. The liberal position was summarized by Jesus: “Let the dead bury the dead.” Well, those who are about to die fear nothing more.

    It’s easy to see the dangers in both attitudes. But in order to understand conservative rage, it’s good to remember that they look at your daughters, dancing off with what looks to them like a generation of (beautiful) fools, and they tremble with impotent despair.

    Or they try to kill them by starting a war.

  • Franky

    “In a democracy, “political truth” comes from the people. Period.” <– Well said!

    The part of the discussion that has really struck me as lacking is that the Republican base is still just eating this up. So for the politicians, it seems that they'll go as far to the right as they need or can to get the votes. That is the "political truth". That behavior won't change until the base stops buying. The problem for the base is that as soon as they stop buying, I would expect that the Dems would enjoy one or two election-year victories until the Republicans can reorganize themselves back to their ideological base.

    It's a real shame, too. I love the philosophy of being fiscally conservative and leaving the federal government mostly to foreign policy – the simplistic view that I have of Republican ideology – but lately the ideology has been taken over by a meme that I can't summarize any better than "Don't vote for those guys." That'll only get you so far, and then you have to have your own ideas.

  • Gramps

    TerryF98 // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Don’t “count yer chickens”…not, just yet!

    Good olde Mitch has just pledged the “full faith and indulgence” of the Republican party to Ms McDonnell… to the tune of a max contribution of $42,000!

    There’s nothin’ like capitulation after the other babe’s horse has left yer barn door open, Mitch…

    This gonna be more fun than a barrel of monkeys when the GOP captures the house and senate, in November…!

  • busboy33


    “You RINO/CINO types are done. Go join the other party, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    “dante, you might be right but not necessarily. Obama has driven away right-leaning independents in hordes. We will just have to wait and see.”

    So Obama’s policy’s are driving away right-leaning independents (and that’s bad for him), and you’re trying to drive away left-leaning Conservatives (and that’s good for the GOP)?

    It certainly is an . . . interesting strategy.

  • Joe In NH

    I fully understand the anger people feel but if compromising and doing deals is a No-NO then the Tea Party will disappear as quickly as it came on the national scene. It seems that anyone who,regardless of how conservative, is willing to accept half a loaf is a traitor according to the Tea Party. The Tea Party needs to grow up if it wants to be around for any length of time.

  • Tea Party wins mean good news for Dems « Against Dumb

    [...] The Power: life advice drivel Taylor Branch on Glenn Beck’s march on Washington Tea Party wins mean good news for Dems Why it’s OK to tax the rich Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: Was brain damage to [...]

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    armstp: “As far as the polls go Obama has held his numbers pretty consistently for the last year, close to 50% approval. Above both Reagan and Clinton who were both at 41% at this point in their presidencies.”

    I think the distinction between Obama’s approval rating and the ratings for Reagan and Clinton are overblown. I think the country was much less polarized during the Reagan and Clinton administrations than it is now. It seemed like there was a larger percentage of the electorate that was willing to switch votes from one party to the other.

    Today that does not seem to be the case, which is why I believe Obama’s rating has held fairly constant and relatively high even though economic conditions have been really tough. I just don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of movement one way or the other for him.

  • anniemargret

    fairyH: You say O’Donnell is a Catholic. I was raised Catholic and my family is Catholic. There is no one in my family who thinks and acts and talks like this woman. No self-respecting person would talk about masturbation and put it on par with adultery. This woman is a throwback to the medieval church where you could have your sins removed from your soul if you gave the priest a little extra in the church envelope.

    I would suggest that Catholics, like Americans, are a mixed bag. Some are thoughtful and reasonable, some are prejudiced and extremist. O’Donnell no more represents Catholicism than the Tea Party represents ‘real America.’

  • denajo

    By 2025 the Republican Party will be dead. Too many old white people will have died off and not been replaced.

  • drdredel

    I don’t know guys… As an avid fan of SNL and the Daily Show, I think giving them the Mt.Everest sized quantity of content, of all these imbeciles trying to pass themselves off as having anything other than walnuts in their skulls, would be incredibly entertaining… maybe worth the 2 years before the 2012. By then, of course, democrats could nominate shit flinging chimps, they’d still get voted in to replace the TPers!

    Seriously… have you guys heard these people speak?! You thought Bush was a buffoon? He sounded like a graduate of Jim Bob’s University and Grill compared to these nuts.

    On with the show!… I have my popcorn ready.

  • A Liebling

    I hadn’t thought about the implications for Obama’s re-election. Two years of Tea Party rhetoric in Congress is just what the Democratic party needs to get mobilized for 2012. And the inevitable gaffes and misbehavior from poorly educated and un-vetted Tea Party politicians will be demoralizing to any conservative with a college education.

    But as you’ve pointed out, Fox News’s stifling power will probably prevent any real alternative to the Tea Party from coalescing on the right. The more extreme and colorful, the better as far as Fox News’s ratings are concerned. Intelligent conservatives do not make good TV. This is the logical extension of Palinism — a party whose core purpose is to make money for Rupert Murdoch instead of actually winning elections.

  • moderategoper

    Breakig News: Christine O’Donnell’s EX EX Gay Spokesperson speaks out – thanks Christine’s lesbian sister.

  • moderategoper


    O’Donnell’s shorter version of spending too much money on AIDS: Gays deserve it and we should just let them die.

  • Tea Party Triumphs: The White Giant Is Stirring by Peter Brimelow | National Policy Institute

    [...] hard not to laugh out loud while watching the ruling class’s extraordinarytemper tantrum over the nomination victories of so many Tea Party candidates on Tuesday night, above all that of [...]