Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), head of the National Republican Senate Committee, accepted an invitation from RedState to explain why the NRSC decided to endorse Florida governor Charlie Crist over Florida Rep. Marco Rubio, who was Speaker of the House between 2006 and 2008, literally 15 minutes after Crist decided to enter the race. Without further delay, it’s time for the Point/Counterpoint:
Two and a half years ago, the Republican Party suffered a major blow in the 2006 midterm elections as the Democrats regained control of Congress and began laying the groundwork to take back the White House in 2008.
As a Party, we were stunned. Having failed to anticipate shifting national dynamics and the growing appetite for change in America, we lost critical voting constituencies including independents, Hispanics, and young voters nationwide. And with Barack Obama’s overwhelming victory in 2008, the Democrats acquired an even broader and stronger majority in Congress, leaving Republicans with very little power in Washington to fight against wasteful spending as our nation spiraled into an economic crisis.
You forgot “governmental conservatives” and “fiscal conservatives” in that, Senator. Those voters that were left, when faced with two parties that advocated ever-growing government, decided to go with the party with institutional experience in growing government over the Johnny-Come-Lately Party.
Specifically regarding Hispanics, how did the push for amnesty work out? Not so good.
Many rightfully wondered where our Party would turn to regain the ground we lost.
At the national level, I’m still wondering.
With an almost filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid at the helm in Washington, the Democrats have already successfully used their majority to grow our nation’s debt to more than $11 trillion in just four months. They’ve promised to wage a battle on card check, healthcare, and energy. And they may attempt to ram through the President’s new Supreme Court nominee before Republicans are given adequate time to review her record. After Senator Specter’s party switch earlier this month, the Democrats effectively control everything in Washington, leaving us with little power to push back on their liberal agenda.
There were no less than 17 times the Republicans could have stopped elements of this. Except on a couple minor points, they failed because “Republicans” like Arlen Specter (before he returned to his true party), Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted with Harry Reid and company.
If he becomes a Senator, Crist, with his less-than-conservative fiscal and governmental record, will be one of those allowing more of those failures to stop the Democrats in the next Congress. Specifically, he touted the stimulus package that kicked in close to $1 trillion of that $11 trillion deficit, and said that he would have voted for it if he had been Senator.
While this political environment appears dire and presents short-term setbacks for Republicans, I believe that it also provides us with a real opportunity for 2010. Next November could be a turning point for the future of our Party – but only if we unite and take advantage of this critical opportunity. That means holding the Democrats accountable for their records, providing real solutions, reaching out to new constituencies, and fielding candidates who can win in states where Republicans have traditionally failed to wage competitive races.
To get to 51 “Republican” Senators, they would not only need to hold onto all 18 seats they currently have (including 5-6 retirements), but get 11 of the 18 Democratic seats up for election. Specifically with regard to Florida, the “failed to wage competitive races” canard is not germaine because the seat is currently held by a “Republican”, and conservatives have won statewide races in Florida in the recent past.
Some believe that we should be a monolithic Party; I disagree. While we all might wish for a Party comprised only of people who agree with us 100 percent of the time, this is a pipedream. Each Party is fundamentally a coalition of individuals rallying around core principles with some variations along the way. My job as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is to recruit candidates who have the best chance of winning and holding seats – and to do so in as many states as possible. Earlier this month, two Republicans candidates emerged for the open Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez in the Sunshine State: Marco Rubio, the young and talented Hispanic former Speaker of the state House, and Charlie Crist, the state’s popular Governor.
Judging by the actions of the NRSC over the last 5 years, the Party that is being built has many of the same core principles as the Democrats, if in a slightly-lower degree. Indeed, I’ve called it the bipartisan Party-In-Government, where the growth of government under “Republican” rule is used as an excuse by the Democrats to exponentially grow government.
That sure looks like an attempt to create a monolithic party.
There is no doubt both of these candidates have a bright future in the Republican Party. But with his record of leadership and astronomical approval ratings, including strong numbers among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Charlie Crist represents the best chance for Republicans to hold this seat in Florida. That is why I endorsed Governor Crist for the U.S. Senate. That is also why Governor Crist was endorsed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, outgoing Florida U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, U.S. Senator John McCain, and other leaders within the Republican Party.
Actually, it’s because Crist meshes well with the current “Democrat-Lite” attitude prevalent among the Senate Republicans.
The NRSC’s endorsement is not a reflection on Marco Rubio; it is a realistic assessment of both the 2010 Florida Senate race and the national map. With the Democrats standing on the precipice of a filibuster-proof majority, we cannot afford to lose this seat in 2010. Endorsing Charlie Crist will save the NRSC precious resources that can be used to fight in other states. It will also ensure that the strongest Republican candidate maintains control of this seat, and build our numbers with the resulting opportunity to shape policy.
As both my co-blogger Shoebox and I have said before, the Democrats got a filibuster-proof majority the moment the first countings of ballots back in November were over. Specifically with respect to this election, I assert that Crist will join the Democrats on filibuster-busting missions more often than the retiring Mel Martinez has.
While Rubio is certainly an up-and-comer in Florida, a recent Mason Dixon poll showed that he only has a 44 percent name ID among Republicans, which will ultimately force him to spend a lot more money introducing himself to Floridians. Govenor Crist, in contrast, has a 100 percent name ID among Republicans, according to the same poll. In a general election match-up with Democrat Congressman Kendrick Meek, Charlie Crist wins handily 55 percent to 24 percent.
Could someone tell me how far back Barack Obama was at this point in 2007? I seem to recall similar numbers.
We have a chance to field competitive candidates in Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, California, Arkansas, and Colorado in 2010. But in order to succeed, we need candidates who fit their states. Winning back the majority requires not only that we hold the Democrats accountable, but also that we embrace the vast number of issues upon which Republicans agree. Failing to do so will hand the Democrats yet another victory in 2010, and deny the American people a check on Democrat-controlled government.
California in play? Surely you can’t be serious.
Seriously, again, this is not exactly germaine to Florida. Both moderates and conservatives have won statewide elections in Florida. This is just an excuse to recast the Republican Party in a Democrat-Lite mold.
If we succeed in electing Republican Senators in 2010, issues like relocating Gitmo detainees to the United States, socializing healthcare, and eliminating workers’ secret ballots may never reach the floor of the United States Senate. But we have to work together to make that a reality. The tides are turning, and Republicans have an opportunity in 2010. However, we cannot win if we are focused on tearing each other down.
Again, I point out that Crist is more likely than Martinez has (not) been to join the Democrats on several of those issues. Thus, the argument sort of rings hollow.
As for the teardown argument, by picking this fight, you and the NRSC are engaged in tearing those that want actual differences between the Republicans and the Democrats out of the Republican Party.
We have a chance in 2010 to unite around our common goal to rebuild the Republican Party and fight against the Democrats’ agenda. I hope that all Republicans will join me in that fight.
Question – if Rubio does beat Crist in the primary, will the NRSC step into Florida, or will it abandon it like it abandoned Wisconsin in 2004 when Tim Michels upset Russ Darrow in the primary here?
If you prefer, I could quote Ed Morrissey’s exit question – “If Crist has such soaring support, then he doesn’t need the NRSC to throw around its weight in the primary on his behalf. Why not let Florida decide who should represent them in the general election, and have the NRSC do its job at that point?”