While Arlen Specter was a Republican, NRSC Chair John Cornyn urged Republicans to support the man who was, at the time, the Republican incumbent. After Arlen Specter left the Republican Party, the PA-GOP was left with former Congressman and former Club for Growth head Pat Toomey as their only major candidate for the seat. Would Cornyn then shift the NRSC endorsement to the conservative Toomey? Last week, he declined:
NRSC Chairman John Cornyn of Texas hesitated when given the opportunity to endorse Toomey on Friday.
"I don't think it's wise for me to tell Pennsylvania Republicans who their nominee should be, so I'm not going to do that," said Cornyn.
It seemed plenty wise for Cornyn to tell the PA-GOP who their nominee should be when it was the less conservative Specter. Maybe Cornyn just didn't want to endorse the more conservative candidate. Or, perhaps Cornyn simply learned the lesson of the problems in endorsing candidates too soon.
Turns out, Cornyn didn't learn any lesson.
In Florida, Charlie Crist just announced that he would be a candidate for Senate in 2010. He is the third Republican to enter the primary behind former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (more conservative than Crist and Hispanic) and former Chief Medical Officer of Florida Marion Thorpe, Jr. (an African-American). With a diversity of candidates and degrees of conservatism, would the NRSC and John Cornyn let Florida Republicans decide for themselves who to nominate?
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), issued the following statement today regarding Florida Governor Charlie Crist's announcement that he will run for the United States Senate in 2010:
"I am pleased today to endorse Governor Charlie Crist for the United States Senate. With his record of reform in Florida, I know that Governor Crist will bring a fresh perspective to Washington in our efforts to fight for lower taxes, less government, and new job creation for all Americans. Charlie Crist is a tireless advocate on behalf of all Floridians and one of only three Governors who earned an 'A' from the CATO Institute for his efforts to restrain spending and cut taxes last year.
"While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate. Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."
And national conservatives, like those at the National Review, are very displeased:
By endorsing Charlie Crist for the Senate, the NRSC is getting involved in Florida's GOP primary more than 15 months before it will actually take place (August 24, 2010). It's also selecting a very liberal Republican (Crist supported the Obama "stimulus") against Marco Rubio, a considerably more conservative choice who is also a credible statewide candidate. Is Crist more electable than Rubio? Arguably. Is Rubio nevertheless capable of winning a general election next year? Certainly. This is a contest that the NRSC should sit out, as Florida Republicans decide for themselves what to do. Instead of trying to beat conservatives, the NRSC should save its resources for defeating Democrats.
In Pennsylvania, the NRSC was willing to endorse the less conservative Arlen Specter, but then balked at endorsing the more conservative Pat Toomey. In Florida, the NRSC chose to endorse the less conservative Charlie Crist over the more conservative Marco Rubio (or over staying out of the endorsement game altogether) - and, at the same time, snubbed the Hispanic Republican and the African-American Republican. The NRSC has found a way to piss off its base while also curtailing outreach to minority communities. Impressive job, John Cornyn.