When Texas Representative Steve Stockman announced he would run for the U.S. Senate, back in December, pundits girded for a doozy of a fight. The senator who Stockman was challenging in the Republican primary, John Cornyn, had a Tea Party target on his back for his lack of enthusiasm for last fall’s government shutdown and for failing to embrace the Tea Party as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee back in 2010. Stockman’s public persona has long been more Internet troll than public servant—he had campaign bumper stickers that read, “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted”; recently, his spokesman responded to Karl Rove’s support for Cornyn by observing, “Karl Rove looks like an elderly baby.” Yet, as a two-term member of Congress, Stockman was more qualified on paper than the Tea Party Senate nominees of yore (remember semi-professional Bill Maher guest Christine O’Donnell?).
In the past, these ingredients—a right-wing gadfly without portfolio plus an incumbent who toed the Washington line—were all that was needed for an incumbent-rousting Tea Party win. But that’s not how the Texas primary went down. Stockman ran a bizarre campaign, barely raising money or making public appearances. His strategy seemed to consist of his weird tweets and a bunch of possibly illegal newspaper-style campaign mailers. It was enough to make one wonder if perhaps his whole “political” “career” was an Andy Kaufman-style performance-art piece, a meditation on the nature of representation and the ontology of assault rifles. Cornyn, meanwhile, tacked hard to the right, straining to emulate his junior partner in the Texas delegation, Senator Ted Cruz, winner of the hardest-fought Tea Party-vs.-Establishment battle of 2012. (Cruz, despite being an official of the senatorial committee, refused to endorse Cornyn.)
Most national and Texas Tea Party groups steered clear of Stockman’s off-the-rails crazy train. And on Tuesday night, in the first installment of 2014’s Republican-on-Republican series, Cornyn trounced him. Cornyn took almost 60 percent of the vote to Stockman’s less than 20 percent.
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The alliance between Georgia’s Nathan Deal and Atlanta’s Kasim Reed—like the Chris Christie-Cory Booker detente—makes more sense than it might initially appear.
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As Christine Toretti tells it, her housekeeper was the one who staged the intervention. After logging tens of thousands of miles and helping raise hundreds of millions of dollars as a finance co-chair for the Republican National Committee leading up to the 2012 elections, Toretti was so depressed by Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid that she retreated to her home in the tiny town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, to nurse her wounds. “Finally, the cleaning lady came in one day and said, ‘I’d like to fumigate the sofa that you’ve been on for two weeks. Would you please get off?’ ”
Toretti obliged, then spent the next two months coming to terms with what had befallen her beloved GOP, and deciding what to do about it. Especially painful for her was how abysmally Romney, and Republicans generally, had fared with women. Back in 1997, she had been appointed to the RNC by then–Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who specifically tasked Toretti, then a young oil-and-gas executive, with bringing other women into the fold. Seventeen years later, Toretti cannot believe that she’s still on the same Sisyphean mission. “It’s like pushing a rope versus pulling it,” she told me during a late-September lunch near Capitol Hill.
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The GOP has a new strategy for turning African Americans into Republicans. Mostly, it focuses on proving that some African Americans already are Republicans. In Michigan, the GOP recently hired an African-American talk-show host to serve as “director of African-American engagement.” For Black History Month, the RNC is airing commercials that “share the remarkable stories of black Republicans.” Last March, in its “autopsy” examining why Mitt Romney lost, the RNC presented a 10-point plan for winning more black votes. None of the 10 involved policy. Five of them involved recruiting more African-American staffers, spokespeople, and candidates.
There’s an irony here. When bashing Democrats, Republicans often decry identity politics. They deride liberals for treating people as members of racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual groups rather as individuals. “I am sick and tired of hyphenated Americans,” declared Rush Limbaugh a few years ago. “It’s bullshit. We all want the same things.” But when it comes to winning the votes of African Americans, that goes out the window and the GOP decides that what really matters to black people is not the ideas Republicans espouse but the skin color of the Republicans espousing them.
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A Republican Party resolution that renounces NSA spying is an extraordinary document. For over a decade, the GOP dismissed civil-libertarian complaints about the War on Terror. The RNC stood behind Team Bush through the war crime of torture and a secret, illegal program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens. Circa 2009, the Tea Party began vying for control of the Republican Party. But even then, mass surveillance on innocents wasn’t among its complaints.
President Obama’s first term would play out with the GOP opposing him on virtually every issue except his embrace of his predecessor’s War on Terror approach.But Obama’s second term has been different.Read more. [Image: Jourand/Flickr]
The Tea Party has turned the GOP against the interests of rural Americans—alienating some of its most loyal constituents.
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The members of the Republican National Committee gathered in Washington this week. On Thursday, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and former presidential candidate, was the featured speaker. “The Democrats,” Huckabee declared, “want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
The creepy, condescending-uncle image, the retrograde attitude toward sex: Huckabee managed to illustrate exactly the phenomenon he was trying to decry, the perception that Republicans don’t know how to talk to or about women. Democrats were gleeful. Within hours, liberal groups had bombarded reporters with outraged statements, the White House press secretary had called the remark “offensive,” and MSNBC was playing the clip over and over (chyron: “HUCKED UP”). “If this is the GOP rebrand a year later, then all they’ve gotten is a year older,” gloated the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
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A group of hawks is called a cast, an aerie, a kettle—or, if John Bolton gets his way, the 114th United States Congress. The one-time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has set up a PAC and a super PAC to help hawks in the 2014 midterms, and is insistent that foreign policy should be prominent in American politics. For a man dedicated to that subject, however, he has a curious blind spot.
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The government shutdown was supposed to doom Republicans forever. But less than three months later, things look very different.
During and after the shutdown, public approval of the Republican Party bottomed out at the lowest levels seen in more than two decades. In one survey, 70 percent accused the party of putting its political agenda ahead of the public good. Congressional races that were supposed to be safe Republican seats started to look winnable for Democrats, and Democratic candidates came out of the woodwork to contest them. In Omaha, Nebraska, a Democratic city councilman who’d previously refused his party’s entreaties to try for a seat the party hadn’t held since 1992 suddenly announced he was willing, on account of “the dysfunction.” He was featured in the New York Times. House Speaker John Boehner began to look like the man who killed the GOP.
A CNN poll in mid-October, right after the shutdown ended, found Americans preferring to vote for Democrats for Congress by an 8-point margin. CNN took the same poll in mid-December and got a different result: Republicans favored by 5 points. The Democrats’ great Nebraska hope dropped out of the race.
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In November, Mischa Fisher took to this space to criticize the notion that Republicans are the anti-science party. Plenty of Democrats hold views that contradict empirically established facts, and Republican skepticism is overblown, he wrote.
And yet …
The Pew Research Center released new numbers Monday on how Americans view evolution. (The question was asked in a way to include those who believe God or a supreme being guided the process.) About six in 10 accept it, the poll found, but the partisan divide is wide
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