Can Palin again deliver a win?
Republican brawls continue in the US Senate primaries. Up tomorrow, Aug 7 are Missouri and Michigan. Wisconsin is Aug 14 and Arizona is Aug 28 (amazingly, during the GOP national convention).
Everybody keeps trying to compare races to Lugar/Mourdock, especially those tracking the Tea Party who think the Mourdock win was solely do to them. They were key in helping assure only one opponent, and provided lots of workers, but other conservatives have had that as well. Lugar was also going to be over 80 had he won, was the longest serving Hoosier Senator by double, had residency questions and cast not just basic business votes like TARP but supported Obama's judges and was more liberal on foreign policy.
Cruz won a big upset in Texas recently but it was not the same in almost all the ways, except people demanding things be done differently.
So tomorrow in Missouri we will watch another variation with three candidates: 1) Brunner, a business guy backed by the US Chamber and Club for Growth 2) Cong Todd Akin, a friend of mine but to my right (probably one of ten most conservative members) who has Huckabee & Michelle Bchman's support among others and 3) Debbie Steelman, former legislator and state treasurer who has Tea Party Express and Sarah Palin's support. Polling has about split it 3 ways all along, and all three lead the Democrat incumbent Senator Carnahan so should win in the fall.
Brunner has the lead in a new poll today but Akin has closed fast in their poll, with Steelman behind. Obviously Missouri has been voting multiple times already: a Presidential primary that was non-binding (Santorum swept it), convention delegate elections thru the normal process, and now this in August. Will anyone vote?
No one knows that I would point out the following things: 1) Akin has a congressional district base in the St. Louis area 2) the Akin's are home schoolers and tied in with the Christian conservative movement there 3) Palin entered late in Nebraska, backing a female state legislator and Fischer won a huge upset - Palin right now is a proxy for Mama Grizzly conservative female voters and to some degree has been pulling evangelicals more than Huckabee.
My prediction, in spite of Bruner's money, is a reverse: possibly Steelman, if not her then Akin with Bruner slightly behind. But I really don't know. I'd feel worse about that except no one in Missouri does either.
Tomorrow in Michigan it is even more bizarre, though again with three candidates. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, one of my very closest friends, is being challenged by a long-time establishment conservative and a Tea Party person. Our Indiana Tea Party leaders, fresh off the upset of Lugar, were invited to Michigan to advise the Tea Party groups there. Greg Fettig of Hamilton County in his new book says how well organized they were. Yeah, except there candidate has now pulled out because they were at 6% and then endorsed Durant. Durant is from the Detroit region (Oakland County) were he launched a number of bids as an old Kemp/Reagan guy. But he's the old guy in the race, he's from the less Republican side of the state, he (in the polling) is the favorite of the moderate wing of the Party and - on top of everything else - is under fire for taking about half a million a year in salary/bonuses for founding & running a non-public school system which is more than university and huge public systems administrators make. Not good.
Yet Indiana Tea Party went up to work for the older, multiple-defeats, guy from the Detroit suburban strongholds who is under fire. Why? Pete Hoekstra is a solid conservative backed by Santorum, DeMint and many others. He backed TARP and the auto industry (in Michigan).
When Tea Party people can't distinguish a Lugar from people like Akin and Hoekstra (and Neumann coming the following week in Wisconsin) just because they were in Congress then they will continue to lose credibility.
The conservatives who make up the Tea Party, especially social conservatives (Hoekstra, for example, is backed by right-to-life), will not back their own leaders. They are folks who are independently mad at government, not card carrying members of a group. They aren't really people desiring to be "led." They make up their own minds.
Hoekstra, once again depending upon turnout, will win 2 to 1 with medium to high turnout (unlikely) but over 50 even in low turnout. It will likely be an embarrassing defeat for the Tea Party groups who got involved. They will say it tightened: it didn't. They haven't moved Hoekstra's numbers at all. Don't buy uninformed spin.
And if Steelman or Akin win in Missouri, it is good news for grassroots conservatives activists and social conservatives, but not necessarily for the Tea Party leadership again.