Sorry, Washington Republicans, but it’s absolutely acceptable to criticize candidates who want grow the federal government

Voters are often told that conservatives should not challenge Washington-backed big government Republicans, because doing so could lead to Republican defeat. Yet it often seems that Washington Republicans don’t follow their own advice. It prompts the question, when does the Washington class really view it as appropriate to criticize Republican candidates?

Mississippi is one example. Washington Republicans asked Democratic voters to support their candidate, Sen. Thad Cochran, in his primary election. This was a violation of Mississippi law, so conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel is challenging the result.

This prompted Ann Coulter to write that Chris McDaniel was a “sore loser” whose supporters “don’t care that they’re gambling with a Republican majority in the Senate.”

This is not the first time Ann Coulter has complained about conservatives from the South or other locations around Middle America. Last October, she complained that conservatives in Minnesota had not done enough to help Sen. Norm Coleman win re-election against Sen. Al Franken, writing, “The inability to distinguish Coleman and McConnell… from Obamacare-ratifying Democrats is…insane.”

It was coincidentally Sen. Coleman’s defeat that prevented him from becoming the chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC), the organization that spent $175,000 working to defeat Chris McDaniel.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who presently serves as the vice-chairman of the NRSC, has been criticized by Washington Republicans for not doing enough to help nominated Republicans to win elections.

In response to Cruz’s criticism of the election in Mississippi, one Republican staffer questioned, “Does it make any sense to have a vice chairman of the NRSC dispute the certification of the Mississippi Senate election in favor of a sitting Republican incumbent?”

Is it really bad for Republicans of one variety to criticize Republicans of other varieties, even if they hold entirely different and antithetical values? For Washington Republicans who campaign against conservatives, there is no such restraint.

For instance, one Republican blog in Virginia criticized David Brat, who defeated Rep Eric Cantor, for his career as a college professor: “After years as a liberal academic elitist, he now switches feet to try to attack Eric Cantor from the right. Problem is that his… leftward tilts would have us spectators hoping he was doing this with a net.”

Similarly, conservative Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan is facing primary challenger Brian Ellis. Far from supporting Amash, most Washington-based interests are opposing him. Several House members, including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), have endorsed Amash’s opponent. The Chamber of Commerce also endorsed his opponent last week. Nonetheless, Amash continues to hold a substantial double-digit lead.

Washington Republicans always tell conservatives that they should never attack a Washington Republican who has a chance to win. They say it isn’t good strategy. Yet if that’s the case, why do Washington Republicans view it as good strategy to be on the losing side of an election that a limited government candidate is likely to win?

Going back to Minnesota, Republicans this year voted almost unanimously to endorse relatively conservative candidate Jeff Johnson for governor. He is being challenged in the primary by Scott Honour, a wealthy candidate who donated thousands of dollars to Al Gore’s 2000 campaign for president and thousands more to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign.

We’re always told that Republicans should support their nominees, even if those nominees support a larger government, because it isn’t good strategy to oppose “winners.” Are Washington Republicans abiding by that advice in Minnesota?

Absolutely not. Former Rep. Chip Cravaack endorsed Honour. Former Senate candidate Kurt Bills endorsed Honour. Radio host Laura Ingraham is fundraising for Honour. The Republican National Committee (RNC) sent one of its former staffers to work on Honour’s campaign. The Republican Governors Association invited him to speak at one of their meetings.

Honour recently gave his own campaign $250,000. He won six votes out of 409 cast by Republican delegates in a straw poll last October. (So what if his votes come at a cost of $40,000 each? At least he’s creating jobs for unemployed RNC staffers.)

To translate what the party’s leaders in Washington are really saying, it is that it is acceptable to criticize candidates who are conservative, middle class, and live in Middle America. It is unacceptable to criticize candidates who are willing to grow the size of government, have enough money to create jobs for campaign staff, or are willing to “play the game.” In reality, winning elections has very little to do with it.


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