The 2010 midterm election is an opportunity, possibly the last before it is too late to save the nation from financial ruin, to return the control of the U.S. Congress to solid fiscal conservatives. Republicans had control of both houses of Congress after the 1994 elections, but lost control in 2006 because of their reckless spending. Republicans have an excellent shot at retaking Congress this year because Democrats have, in just four years in control, spent more money (that the U.S. doesn’t really have) more recklessly than Republicans did in their 12 years of control. But we only benefit from Republicans gaining control if the people we elect to take the reigns are solid conservatives who won’t repeat the mistakes of 1995-2006. Missouri needs to elect a solid conservative to the U.S. Senate, not merely someone not quite as bad as the likely Democrat nominee, Princess Robin Carnahan.
Unfortunately, the candidate who could have ridden the Tea Party wave of enthusiasm, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, unwisely opted not to run. I would have supported her candidacy from the get-go, and I believe she would have cruised to victory, in both the primary and general elections, if she had run.
However, next week’s Republican Primary nevertheless features two solid conservative candidates for U.S. Senate who also have legitimate resumes of legislative experience: 14-year U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt and 14-year state legislator Chuck Purgason. I am more familiar with Blunt, because of his prior 8-year stint as Missouri Secretary of State, but I like both of them. Each of them counts friends of mine as their supporters.
Blunt’s near-unanimous backing by party leaders, his solid lead in what few “scientific” polls that have been taken in the contest, and his success (and Purguson’s lack of success) at fundraising make Blunt the clear front-runner. But that’s not enough. Tea Party inspired grassroots rebellions have toppled similarly situated “favorites” in other state primaries this year, a wave that would have nominated Steelman. Purgason has begun to catch on with many of my Tea Party colleagues over the past month or so. But Blunt also has his own share of Tea Party support, including fundraising help this weekend from Tea Party hero Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a significant donation from the leadership PAC of Sarah Palin, and Steelman’s own endorsement.
While conservatives must be tolerant of RINOs elected by states or districts where that is as good as we can realistically get (like Scott Brown in Massachusetts and the RIN-ette twins in Maine), we don’t have to settle for that in Missouri. Both Blunt and Purgason are solid, legitimate conservatives. Purgason is a bit more conservative than Blunt, but Blunt is no RINO. Conservative skepticism about Blunt centers on his role, as part of the GOP house leadership in the last four years of GOP control, in the overspending (notably President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” educational boondoggle) that soiled the Republican brand. I share that concern. I was disappointed that Blunt supported the TARP bailout in 2008, but the circumstances leading up to that vote near the end of the Bush-43 presidency make that vote more forgivable than it might seem when viewed with 20/20 hindsight. But since the harsh reality of President Obama’s socialist presidency have become apparent, Blunt’s voting record has been stellar. Sure, he deviated by supporting Cash for Clunkers, but he was there when we needed him to oppose cap and tax, health control, Obama’s pseudo-stimulus plan, the union-exempt DISCLOSE bill and the newest bailouts in the so-called financial reform bill.
I have concluded, after much soul searching, that Blunt has learned his lesson, and that having someone who still feels the burn on his singed fingers may be better than someone who says the right things but hasn’t been tested in the Washington environment. Blunt gets it.
I think either Blunt or Purguson would defeat Princess Robin in this election year, but Purgason is a chancier proposition. Conservatives don’t have such a lock on Missouri that they can win without moderate votes, and I fear Purgason could alienate enough moderates to cost us this seat. Remember, Republicans already hold this seat in the person of retiring Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO). The loss of any Republican-held seat this year would realistically kill any chances of retaking the senate majority (and with it, the right to chair senate committees). We just can’t take the chance that the princess could beat a weaker candidate. While Blunt is no Jim DeMint, he’s good enough, and good enough to win.
By the way, I dissent from plans of some Tea Partiers to picket Bachmann’s appearance for Blunt this weekend. Any money raised this late is too late to use in the primary against Purgason, so it will go towards the worthy goal of beating Princess Robin in November. If Purgason wins the primary, there are ways to redirect those funds so that his campaign benefits.
Tea Partiers are also divided in the contest for State Auditor, which also features two candidates whom I could happily support in November. Tom Schweich and Allen Icet both have backgrounds that lend themselves to being a great auditor. Most of the Republican establishment, including people I respect like John Ashcroft, Peter Kinder and Ed Martin, are backing Schweich. But that backing really seems to have been Schweich’s reward for backing off a primary challenge to Blunt that had been encouraged by Schweich’s mentor, moderate former Sen. Jack Danforth (R-MO). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch obliquely referenced this when endorsing Schweich, noting that the liberal paper prefers Schweich’s (i.e., Danforth’s) brand of Republicanism. I’ll take Icet.
While Democrats are trying to divide Republicans by playing up our disagreements, the fact is that we just disagree about who would best represent the party. The Republicans and Tea Partiers who have made a different conclusion don’t hate me for mine, and we’ll happily unite behind the primary victors. This is because our candidate fields are strong, and the viable choices are all good. It’s as though we were choosing between dark and milk chocolate; they’re all chocolate! We take the “long view” that 24th State advocates. And we will enthusiastically vote in November to end the madness that has seized control of our government, regardless of who our combatants turn out to be.