In US News and World Report this morning, Robert Schlesinger writes about “Charlie Crist, Dan Coats, and the Republican Purge Movement.” Schlesinger declares,
Tea Partyers and their allies—antiestablishment pols like South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and the wingers in the politico-media-industrial complex—have accumulated some RINO (Republican In Name Only—their term for moderates) pelts. But beyond such takedowns, they have proven less able to register a signature electoral victory.
Liberals dismiss DeMint at their peril. In the Washington Post today, I explain that far from a “purge movement” aimed at accumulating “RINO pelts,” DeMint is leading a carefully targeted effort to elect a handful of real conservatives who will help him fight for fiscal discipline and conservative values in the Senate. He chooses his candidates carefully, and virtually all of DeMint’s chosen candidates are leading their Democratic opponents in the polls. In Florida, Marco Rubio is running ahead of both Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek in a three-way race. In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey is a solid 10 points ahead of Arlen Specter. In Colorado, Ken Buck leads Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and in Indiana Marlin Stutzman is running ahead of Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth. Even in California, where the race is an uphill battle for all the Republicans, Chuck DeVore runs better against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer than the NRSC’s anointed candidate, Carly Fiorina. If DeMint’s candidates can win their primaries, they can win in November.
And if they win in November, an interesting dynamic unfolds. The GOP will have a bloc of newly-elected senators whose first loyalty is not to the Republican leadership (which opposed them in their primaries), but to DeMint and the grassroots conservatives who stood with them when no one else would. That could have repercussions for years to come.