In the last seven years, there hasn’t been one ultimately successful conservative primary challenger to an incumbent Republican Senator.
The last successful challenger to an incumbent liberal Senate Republican was Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah. That was in 2010, and Lee won at a nominating convention, rather than a traditional primary election. In 2012, Richard Mourdock defeated incumbent Senator Dick Lugar, R-Ind., in the primary, but he went on to lose the general election.
Dissatisfaction with Congress remains at an all-time high among Republicans, with only 16 percent of Republican voters approving of the performance of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It is not unreasonable to hazard a guess that the failure of Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to lead the GOP conference to passing President Trump’s agenda plays a part in that dissatisfaction.
Seven years is a remarkable amount of time to make constant promises, only to break them when it counted. That’s exactly what Republicans under McConnell’s leadership did with their campaign pledges to repeal Obamacare, all of which amounted to nothing. Yet McConnell continually backs candidates for the U.S. Senate who are hostile to conservative principles in the GOP.
As BuzzFeed News’ Alexis Levinson recounts, conservative primary challengers to McConnell’s preferred candidates have repeatedly come up short. Martin Stutzman, R-Ind., lost the Indiana senate primary by a whopping 34 percentage points against Todd Young in 2016.
“Stutzman is the most dramatic example,” Levinson writes, “but he wasn’t the only Republican to come up short running an anti-McConnell campaign. In 2014, Milton Wolf, a Kansas doctor who challenged Sen. Pat Roberts, lost by seven percent. Chris McDaniel actually beat Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran in a primary by half a point, but he fell short of the required 50 percent, and he ultimately lost in a runoff.”
Voters in Alabama have a unique opportunity to end this drought on Tuesday. McConnell’s establishment forces are going to the mat for incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the special election primary for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat. Despite millions of dollars flooded into the race in support of Strange by McConnell allies, Judge Roy Moore commands a ten-point lead over Strange in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup that seems ever more likely to come to pass.
But should Moore prevail, why stop there? Several GOP senators are running for re-election in 2018, and many of them are vulnerable to a primary challenge — particularly Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Republican voters must ask themselves, do these Republicans deserve to be re-nominated for Congress? Have they fought to fulfill their campaign promises? Have they effectively stood up to the Left? Are they advancing a conservative agenda?
If not, if unsure, then perhaps it’s time for a change where there is a competent, conservative candidate who could win.
Don’t we want more Mike Lees in the U.S. Senate?
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
Obamacare is the Death Star, and it needs to be destroyed.
Conservativism, which is good and decent, ought defend that which is good and decent.