Conservatives plan challenge to Scott Brown: Republicans continue to eat their own

This is perhaps the dumbest idea I’ve heard in a while:

A Republican organization that backed Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) with independent expenditures and fundraising assistance says it will work to defeat Brown in a Republican primary next year in order to protect the party’s brand.

Scott Wheeler, who heads the National Republican Trust PAC, said the group never expected Brown to toe a consistently conservative line, given his home state. But Brown’s vote for the New START Treaty with Russia in late 2010 was a bridge too far, Wheeler said.

“We believe the Democrats’ policies are destroying the country. Why let them take a Republican vote with them? If we’re not going to have at least a symbolic vote against some of this garbage, then let’s make the Democrats take the blame for it. It’s their policies,” Wheeler said in a Friday interview. “I say, no more Republican hostages.”

Scott Brown is the most popular politician in Massachusetts – no mean feat for a republican from a very democratic state, one that gave Barack Obama over 60% of the vote in 2008 and whose state house is more than 80% democratic. He’s done that by breaking with his party on numerous occasions, such as on the START treaty and on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he’s also got a 100% rating from the Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government, and an A+ rating from the Gun Owners’ Action League. That’s pretty damn good for a Massachusetts republican – and it’s about the best you can get in a state that reliably democratic.

It seems that the republican base has learnt nothing from the 2010 elections which, while a big GOP win, could have been better had it not been for Tea Party primary victories in places like Delaware and Nevada. Already, there is talk of primary challenges to Olympia Snowe in Maine, Dick Lugar in Indiana and Orrin Hatch in Utah. Now, granted, even the most insanely conservative republican could win in Utah – but Maine and Indiana were both carried by Barack Obama in 2008, and a Tea Party candidate would run a serious risk of losing otherwise remarkably solid GOP seats in either of those states. That goes double for Massachusetts, where pretty much anyone except Scott Brown will undoubtedly lose by more than 20 points.

As a partisan democrat with a shameful love for dirty politics, I’m revelling in this. I’m hoping for a Sarah Palin-Michele Bachmann ticket in the presidential election, and as many Tea Partiers as possible in House and Senate races. As an American citizen, however, the fact that even Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar – for decades considered as extremely reliable conservatives – are no longer rabid enough partisans for the GOP base. And while I wouldn’t hesitate to vote a straight democratic line if I lived in MA, I actually like that there’s someone like Scott Brown in an increasingly polarised Senate – someone who truly has to weigh up conservative principles with political pragmatism. It’d be sad to see someone like him defeated by a fire-breathing Sarah Palin fan.

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