After Tonight, Bleak Forecast for Senate Conservatives

Ben Sasse, republican congressional candidate from Nebraska
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
May 13, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

Let’s, for a mo­ment, look past to­night’s Neb­raska Sen­ate primary. Re­gard­less of wheth­er anti-es­tab­lish­ment fa­vor­ite Ben Sas­se (R) wins or loses, the con­ser­vat­ive groups at his side (Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund and Club for Growth, among oth­ers) have an im­port­ant month ahead of them. And by the looks of things, things aren’t poised to break in their fa­vor.

— The Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted Monday that the Club had pulled out of its fight against Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID 02), whose primary against at­tor­ney Bry­an Smith (R) oc­curs next week. The Idaho race was ar­gu­ably the main House show­down with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party this year, and the in­cum­bent looks poised to win a T.K.O. be­fore any­one starts count­ing bal­lots.

— Things look worse for con­ser­vat­ive chal­lengers in Ken­tucky, where a Matt Bev­in (R) vic­tory over Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell (R) would, at this point, re­gister as one of the biggest polit­ic­al shock­ers in years. Re­mem­ber when Bev­in was the rais­on d’etre of some con­ser­vat­ive act­iv­ists and the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund? (Not­ably, the Club nev­er en­dorsed him.)

— That leaves con­ser­vat­ives ral­ly­ing around state Sen­at­or Chris McDaniel (R) in Mis­sis­sippi, in his match­up against Sen. Thad Co­chran (R). Ex­pect an al­most fer­vent amount of at­ten­tion on that race between now and the June 3 primary ““ the op­er­at­ives plot­ting against the in­cum­bent know he might be the only chance they have left to knock off a cur­rent of­fice­hold­er. Co­chran is still viewed as the fa­vor­ite and is up in the polls, but con­ser­vat­ives con­sider it still very win­nable.

Re­gard­less of to­night’s res­ults or the out­come of the Mis­sis­sippi con­test, ex­pect some soul-search­ing among the lead­ers of the “con­ser­vat­ive es­tab­lish­ment” after this month’s slate of races. There’s a grow­ing re­cog­ni­tion that 2014 is go­ing to be a lot dif­fer­ent than the tea party-in­fused years of 2010 and 2012.
— Alex Roarty

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