Are Republicans already ignoring the lessons of the presidential election? Last Monday, Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito announced plans to run in 2014 for the West Virginia Senate seat held by Jay Rockefeller. In response, former Rep. Chris Chocola, the president of the Club for Growth, declared the Club’s opposition to Moore’s candidacy. “Congresswoman Capito has a long record of support of bailouts, pork, and bigger government,” he said.
Chocola’s statement was overshadowed by the debate over what to do about the “fiscal cliff.” But it probably says more about the future direction of the Republican Party than House Speaker John Boehner’s daily animadversions on taxes and spending; and what it says is not very good—at least for those Republicans to want to revive their party’s fortunes after this November’s election. It also has some bearing on the fiscal-cliff negotiations.
There is no clear center of power in Republican Party (or, for that matter, the Democratic Party). Primaries are determined by a fairly narrow field of voters - only 15 percent of registered voters, for example, participated this year in Indiana’s hotly contested Republican Senate primary. Candidates depend not only on their personal and political appeal, but also on grassroots support and, of course, money.
That’s where organizations like the Club for Growth come in. Unlike the Republican National Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Club’s objective is not simply to elect Republicans, but to elect what Chocola calls “true champions of economic freedom.” To do that, the Club is willing to intervene in Republican primaries, even against incumbents. And in the wake of Citizens United, it is able to raise and spend unlimited funds to do so.