The government shutdown is over, for now. Let the blood-letting and fundraising begin!
Within hours after Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican from Mississippi, voted for a budget deal that reopened the government, two influential conservative advocacy groups announced their support for a state senator challenging him in the 2014 primary. Cochran, one of 27 Republican senators to vote for the measure, has served in the Senate since 1978.
“Chris McDaniel is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop Obamacare, balance the budget, and get America working again," Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a statement. "Chris McDaniel is not part of the Washington establishment and he has the courage to stand up to the big spenders in both parties. He's a principled leader who will make Mississippi proud."
The Club for Growth also weighed in, with its president, Chris Chocola, issuing a statement saying McDaniel “represents the next generation of conservative leadership that Mississippi Republicans are waiting for.”
“Mississippi needs a strong fiscal conservative in the Senate who will fight President Obama and his agenda of higher taxes and bigger government. Sen. Chris McDaniel is ready to take the fight straight to the liberals in Washington who have led us to $17 trillion in debt. Club members look forward to strongly supporting his candidacy in the primary and general elections next year,” Chocola said.
Of the Republican incumbent, the club’s statement sniped: “The seat is currently held by incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who has not announced his intention to run for reelection.” (The Senate Conservatives Fund didn’t bother to even mention Cochran, by most standards a reliable Republican, though he has run afoul of some conservatives for seeking projects for Mississippi and favoring a jobs bill, among other things.)
The ready-aim-fire at Cochran may have been a first blast of anger but it was unlikely to be the last. Tea party loyalist Sarah Palin offered a road map of the activists’ dismay in a Facebook post after the Senate vote:
“Friends, do not be discouraged by the shenanigans of D.C.’s permanent political class today,” she wrote. “Be energized. We’re going to shake things up in 2014. Rest well tonight, for soon we must focus on important House and Senate races. Let’s start with Kentucky – which happens to be awfully close to South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi – from sea to shining sea we will not give up. We’ve only just begun to fight.”
That would be, in order of states, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who negotiated the Senate deal with Nevada Democrat Harry Reid; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Cochran — to list those favoring the deal who are up for reelection in 2014. (Two other senators from the states — Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Bob Corker of Tennessee — also favored the deal but have more breathing room before their 2018 reelection races.)
The internal warfare was underscored in an essay by conservative website RedState.com’s editor Erick Erickson.
“Conservatives must advance — ever advancing against the Republicans who have folded in the fight against Obamacare,” he said.
Using the measure for political advantage was not just a Republican thing, by any stretch. The California Democratic Party was one of many that sought to tap the wallets of partisans galvanized by the budget fight. Shawnda Westly, executive director of the state party, asked in a mass email for $5 donations to a “Shut Down the Tea Party” fund.
“It’s up to us to make sure that voters remember that these tea party Republicans tossed hundreds of thousands of workers out on the street, endangered food assistance to 9 million mothers and kids, and pushed us to the brink of another global financial meltdown,” she wrote. “We're not going to let it happen again.”
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