April 29th, 2010
02:59 PM ET
10 years ago

More Moderate vs. Conservative GOP battles ahead

 Former Sen. Dan Coats is hoping to win back his old seat next Tuesday in Indiana.

Former Sen. Dan Coats is hoping to win back his old seat next Tuesday in Indiana.

Washington (CNN) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's expected announcement Thursday that he is giving up his bid for the Republican party's Senate nomination and instead running as an independent is just one chapter in a wider war for the heart and soul of the GOP.

Next week, the spotlight will move to Indiana, where former Sen. Dan Coats is hoping to win back his old seat. The former Republican lawmaker, who is the establishment candidate in the race, is facing off against a number of opponents in Tuesday's primary, including former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman.

Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has endorsed Stutzman, who is also the favorite of local Tea Party groups in Indiana. On Wednesday, a political action committee that DeMint chairs announced it has raised over $200,000 in campaign donations for Stutzman, who was once a long shot in the primary contest.

The winner of the primary will take on Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth in the general election. The race is to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

Bitter Republican primary fights are also being waged in half a dozen states nationwide.

In Utah, Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, who no one would call a moderate, is fighting for his political life because he may not be conservative enough. Bennett upset many on the right with his 2008 vote in favor of the federal bailout of banks and financial institutions. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth has been actively working to defeat Bennett, as have some Tea Party organizations.

Bennett, who is fighting for a third term in the Senate, may not even make it to his party's primary. He needs to win the votes of at least 40 percent of the 3,500 delegates attending the Utah GOP convention on May 8 to advance to a June primary. Two recent polls suggest that may be a tough task.

Kentucky holds its primary 10 days after the convention in Utah, and the Republican race there is shaping up as another battle between the party favorite and the conservative outsider.

Trey Grayson, the Kentucky secretary of state and establishment candidate in the race, was the early favorite. But Rand Paul, a physician and the son of former GOP presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, now leads in the battle for the nomination, according to some recent polls.

Paul has the backing of some Tea Party groups and has been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a darling of conservatives. Both Paul and Grayson are fighting to succeed Sen. Jim Bunning, a fellow Republican who is not running for re-election this year.

The conservative vs. moderate and insider vs. outsider dynamics are also playing out in Republican Senate primary contests in California, Colorado, and Arizona.

But Sen. John Cornyn of Texas says party primaries "are good for culling the weak from the strong."

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which assists incumbent GOP senators running for re-election and Republican candidates seeking office, was an early backer of Crist in the Florida contest.

Cornyn told reporters on Wednesday that his early endorsement of Crist last year was a bad idea in hindsight. He says he has realized that "it's not necessarily helpful" for the NRSC to endorse statewide candidates in light of the current anti-establishment and anti-incumbent mood in the country.

The mood helps Republicans over Democrats in this November's contests, since the Democrats control Congress and the White House and since there are more Democratic than Republican incumbents up for re-election this year. But victories by conservative candidates over more moderate Republicans in the spring and summer primaries could hurt the GOP as it bids for moderate and independent voters in November's general elections.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: 2010 • GOP • Indiana
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Jay T.

    Which one is going to adopt the "Drill, Baby, Drill," chant that dominated the Republican National Convention in 2008. With the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems like the perfect time to bring back that profound message.

    April 29, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. once upon a horse

    what could be more fun than watching the GOP eat it's own young.

    April 29, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The more radical Tea Partiers the republicans nominate, the more moderates they're pushing out of the party. I love watching this self inflicting destruction of the republican party. Come election time, republicans are going to lose BIG.

    April 29, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  4. Independent One

    I will take a moderate over extremism ANYDAY

    April 29, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Yes, there is a battle between Moderate & Conservative Republicans. That began fiercely with the Tea Party, and their "purity test" for conservatives.

    The Republicans can not hope to win, without at least, a few minority votes. Right now, with the SR 1070 in Arizona and other Red States following with their own versions of SR 1070, the Republicans have lost, the Latino vote. And the vote of REGULAR Americans, like me, who continue to be amazed at the Republican strategy of hate, lies, fear and division.

    April 29, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. Geoz

    Love the purity test. Just love it.
    Looks good on you GOP... not so much on me. But GREAT on you. No I mean it. You deserve that purity test. You have earned it. Looks great on you. Really.

    April 29, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. Paul from Phoenix

    Welcome to cyclical politics. Have the dems forgotten already that they went through the same thing in 2004?

    What is happening now within the GOP, within the next decade, the same thing will happen to the dems again. If Obama wins a second term, then 2014 is going to involve serious Obama fatigue. If not, then he lost in 2012, and Obama fatigue hit early.

    BUt everyone who is about to post how great this is, try refreshing your memory to only 6 short years ago.

    April 29, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. mike

    the tea party is history for the simple fact that if they were true
    to there beliefs they would be in arizona protesting the document
    bill sign in to law targeting people who are mexicans and talking
    about the constitution along with the tea party queen Palin but
    that idiot sees nothing wrong with that only when it affects her
    retarded son then it becomes a different story just think if everyone
    in this country start to target everyone just because they look or
    act different

    April 29, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. REG in AZ

    We hear excited calls for the need to check Obama’s actions and claims that he will be stopped with the 2010 elections and even other screaming, all of it ringing of heightened emotion and with questionable reasoning. There is a whole lot of effort going on from those not being very responsible, who are highly biased and have a ‘tongue in check’ honesty, who just want to block/obstruct any change/reform and who are aggressively trying to excite people’s emotions and manipulate public opinion. To ignore their self-focused motivation is a real and costly mistake. The ideal would be to have responsible, conscientious and honest bipartisan cooperation to develop and fine tune solutions to our very serious and real problems but that is not available as those who put their political ambitions above all else seek to gain their way with an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. They seek to serve their Special Interests and influential, powerful and extremely wealthy supporters while they arrogantly attempt to deceive and use the majority; they simply seek to return to ‘more of the same’ that contributed so heavily to our problems. While they use their scare tactics and appeals to people’s fears it should be understood that if they can actually stop reform, then there is no likelihood that any change would ever be implemented and we would literally be stuck with ‘more of the same’, which greatly favors the few and would continue to significantly cost the many. Not only is the faulting of Obama more emotional than logical but doing nothing and returning to ‘more of the same’ is the absolute worst scenario.

    April 29, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Allen Hussein

    Can I have another helping of popcorn? Watching the Pugs duke it out sure is entertaining!

    April 29, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. REG in AZ

    "the few" = 90%.

    April 29, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. Dano

    There is definitely a battle being waged between the far right extremists and the (relatively speaking) moderate members of the GOP. Extremists will never see themselves as such until they lose enough elections and members to make them reevaluate their objectives. Only then will the GOP become a relevent political party again.

    April 29, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  13. SC Ex-Pub

    Re-pugs don't know it, but there are already two Re-thug parties. How is that "tee-bagger" working out for you?

    April 29, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. j

    I`m an Ike / Goldwater era Repub. I don`t even know these guys nowdays. In the 60`s-70`s, they would be the radical right wingers and shunned by all mainstream Republicans.

    April 29, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. Albert R. Killackey

    The far-right are out-of-touch with reality. The battle is Global Corporatism vs. Americanism; American Individualism! The war is over possession of America's middle class wealth; does it stay in the global corporate economy or do Americans take it back? People need to decide which side they are on; Wall Street reform or global corporate protection; overturn the Supreme Court 5 opinion that global corporations can bribe our lawmakers and swing our elections with unlimited corporate free speech (Money-Talks), or let Senators sell America to the highest bidder?, remove all corporatists from government or just be happy chanting "USA, USA" so you can believe you care?

    The so-called Tea Party needs to read the real history, those three tea ships in Boston Harbor were filled with global corporate cargo and that Tea Co. was granted a monopoly with a tax-cut. These people should rent the movie Food. Inc. which shows how 80% of our food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations and after watching it, consider that since Reagan global corporations have been granted the largest tax-cuts in American history and then read Emerson's "Concord Hymn" about those brave independent farmers who refused to be reduced to surfdom under global corporate food lords.

    "By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
    Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard 'round the world."

    April 29, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    I do not know what the "The Few=90%" ......... I checked and I do not see 90% of anyone supporting the Conservatives. I do know that the Rasmussen Poll showed that 70% of those polled supported the AZ law, however, Rasmussen is a conservative pollster. And as usual with polls, they do not reach the youth of our nation nor those of us who have ditched our landlines.

    Yes, I do remember the Democrats going through their own problems, but at least the Democrats were not "eating their own."

    April 29, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  17. Steve (the real one)

    The liberals happily forget how they have littered their highway with moderate democrats. Interesting how Kaine is lecturing the GOP when his party is chasing down Lincoln (AK) and others who voted against heathcare! The Blue dogs have caught hell from the exterme far left! I can see how they would like to forget that small fact! The truth be told, Liberals want to "adopt" moderate Republicans while showing the door to their own! Their appears to be no room in either party for moderates! That would nclude yours, liberals!

    April 29, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  18. lolo

    It is very strange that all the past republicans want to regain theirs seats. There is something really fishy in the air. The Tea Partiers have realy messed things up. They are so far gone. They are just shameful rude people who think that everything has to be ran their way. They really need to look back in time to see how far America has come. No one wants to go back to the past but these fools. Those who are true Americans want to see their country succeed and the tea partiers do not understand that. With the likes of Palin, Beck, etc. they will never succeed. They actually really do need to move to their own country. None of them would last a minute, because they would be too busy cutting each others throats.

    April 29, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. Rog

    Yep, appealing to the uneducated voter through fear, racism, goverment bashing & other means to win over the stupid rednecks has caught up with them. Went from the party of the elite to the party of the elite and a huge number of uneducated, narrow & SIMPLE minded rednecks. Now the elite is looking around the room to see they are greatly outnumbered by a bunch of senseless goofballs who after 30 years are demanding to actually be heard. From the likes of Goldwater to Coburn. Amazing.

    April 29, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Steve (the real one)

    Lacrosse Mom is correct in that the Rasmussen Poll is a conservative poll. Yet the same folks who pooh pooh that poll are the very same ones that eat up the liberals polls and vice versa! The problem is we all support only the polls that support our stances. We hate and disregard those polls that don't support our stances. Human nature, no more no less!

    April 29, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. marylandvoter

    I am from Illinois, originally.

    When I was first eligible to vote, in 1980, I was a registered Republican voter.

    However, by the mid-eighties, I switched to the Democratic Party.

    Why? Well, because, moderate Republicans would be challenged by conservatives, or right-wingers, supported by out-of-state money from conversative political action committees, NRA, Moral Majority, etc.

    If the moderate Republican lost in the primary, guess who won in the general election in November? Well, it was not the right-winger.

    So, I came to the conclusion, that I may as well vote for the Democrats.

    April 29, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  22. IndependentAmerican

    Sorry to pop the Conservatives bubble........ but.......... there are plenty of MODERATE Liberals! Example: The Blue Dog Democrats. The GOP is the party where you either tow the far-right line or you are challenged, like Charlie Crist, John McCain, etc.

    April 29, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. Liz the First

    Good! let them fight amongst themselves and we'll just elect Democrats. government should have a warning label, 'Danger!!! Keep away from children and republicans!' the so-called 'moderates' aren't much better than the far right wingnuts. maybe a bit more sane but still only interested in bettering the rich and big corporations at the expense of the American people.

    April 29, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |