In the fight against Tea Party primary challenges in congressional races, GOP incumbents have very different support systems, depending on which house they inhabit.
In Mitch McConnell, Republican senators have a minority leader who’s willing to wade into the fight with promises to “crush” primary challengers. Republican House members, meanwhile, will be lucky if the national party agrees to hold their collective coat.
McConnell’s latest blunt talk came in a weekend interview with The New York Times, in which he predicted not just his own victory in Kentucky over Tea Party-backed challenger Matt Bevin, but said of Tea Party candidates in general, “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
Contrast that with National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), who made an appearance at the National Press Club on Tuesday to discuss the state of play in the 2014 mid-terms.
Walden professed not to even know who is and who is not backed by the far right in House primary races. “I don’t keep a list of who is Tea Party or not Tea Party,” he said.
“We’ll let the primaries play out, and I think that’s appropriate. We don’t get involved in terms of trying to push a primary one way or another; that’s up to the voters in that district,” he said. “We will work with all candidates, and we silo that work, because we want whoever is the strongest to come out of this and whoever comes out of this to be the strongest going forward. So we work with each of the candidates in a confidential way.”
Walden stressed that the NRCC will not spend money to support incumbent GOP candidates facing challenges from the far right, saying, “It’s their job” to go out and win their primaries.
Overall, the NRCC chair was upbeat about Republican chances in 2014, predicting a gain of six to eight House seats, which would roughly offset their losses in the 2012 campaign. Citing President Obama’s poor poll numbers, he predicted, “Democrats are going to have trouble holding on to what they have.”
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