Unsurprisingly, the above ad from The National Republican Trust PAC has been rejected by both CBS and NBC. Thankfully, conflating the radical jihadists of al-Qaeda with mainstream Islam is a non-starter in polite culture.
But the -- surely foreseen and intended -- criticism motivated by the ad underscores what will be a crucial political subtext as the Republican party seeks a winning formula in 2010 and 2012. Like the GOP congressional caucuses, the National Republican Trust PAC really isn't about anything. In the 2008 presidential race, the NRT didn't donate a lick of cash to the McCain/Palin campaign; they did, however, spend $8,156,296 opposing Barack Obama's candidacy. As their 2010 expenditures show, they are still functioning as a primarily negative instrument, spending in opposition to middle-of-the-roaders such as Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. (They do, however, seem to have a thing for Saxby Chambliss.)
An exception, however, is Scott Brown, whose 2010 senate campaign received $96,192 from the NRT.
The competing tensions on Scott Brown are fierce -- it's not too long until he'll have to face Massachusetts voters again, who aren't won over by the same tactics that work in, say, Alabama. As Adam Sorenson noted for TIME, Brown frequently finds himself the lone Republican allowing Democratic initiatives to achieve cloture. For example, the jobs bill. And Financial Reform.
But while the (relative) sanity of his electorate is one pressure point, funding from the sort who heartily embrace the NRT's message is another. Traditional media outlets have already noted and called attention to the slew of critical remarks finding their way on to Scott Brown's Facebook page. A local Tea party outfit released a statement following the Financial Reform vote calling attention to Brown's heresy:
"Tea Party activists will continue to independently support candidates and current representatives that adhere to our constitutional principles of limited government, free markets and individual liberty. If Senator Brown wants our continued support, he must consider how legislation he supports upholds these principles."
The question is, is support from the most rabid of the right enough to put Brown over the top in Massachusetts again? Keep in mind that the election he did win was in January of an off-campaign year -- the precise sort of election a motivated few can tilt. To retain his seat, Brown will surely need to win over a wider swath of a deep blue electorate. Given that he is sure to be Democrats' top target in 2012, he's wise to already be positioning himself with his votes now. A spotlight vote -- assured by his public show of uncertainty -- for Harry Reid's financial reform package was a good start. A better start might be publicly denouncing the most extreme types -- the types who believe every mosque is a terrorist training facility -- whose money placed him where he is today.
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