For Senate Conservative Groups, Nebraska Or Bust

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) walk from McConnell's office to the Senate Chamber on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. As Democratic and Republican leaders negotiate an end to the shutdown and a way to raise the debt limit, the White House postponed a planned Monday afternoon meeting with Boehner and other Congressional leaders. The government shutdown is currently in its 14th day. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
May 2, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

The clock is tick­ing on groups like the Madis­on Pro­ject, Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund and — to a less­er ex­tent — the Club for Growth. Today’s Na­tion­al Journ­al magazine cov­er story tracks the GOP es­tab­lish­ment strik­ing back in this year’s primar­ies; the flip side of that story is the re­l­at­ive in­ef­fect­ive­ness of their re­bel­li­ous con­ser­vat­ive coun­ter­parts.

— It’s why the primary in Neb­raska looms as a ma­jor mo­ment in the 2014 cam­paign. There, after Freedom­Works’ un­usu­al shift, con­ser­vat­ive groups are aligned in uni­son be­hind Mid­land Uni­versity pres­id­ent Ben Sas­se against the more es­tab­lish­ment-friendly former state treas­urer, Shane Os­born. Sas­se looks like the fa­vor­ite right now, al­though it’s been a com­pet­it­ive race thus far. And if Sas­se wins, groups like SCF can likely count on a fun­drais­ing vic­tory lap that will spill over in­to oth­er Sen­ate primar­ies.

— Oth­er op­por­tun­it­ies have petered out. SCF went all in on Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell‘s chal­lenger Matt Bev­in (R) in a Ken­tucky race that’s clos­ing with a whim­per in­stead of a bang. (The same goes for Milton Wolf‘s (R) primary in Kan­sas against Sen. Pat Roberts.) Es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ates are on the march in North Car­o­lina and Geor­gia. Even a can­did­ate like one­time su­per lob­by­ist Ed Gillespie (R) in Vir­gin­ia would seem primed for a chal­lenge from the right; in­stead, he’s waltz­ing to the GOP nom­in­a­tion.

— Con­ser­vat­ive groups have also lined up be­hind state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) in Mis­sis­sippi, but his cam­paign has been dogged by rev­el­a­tions of a lit­any of of­fens­ive re­marks he made as a talk show ra­dio host. If he de­feats Sen. Thad Co­chran (R), the story might be less about con­ser­vat­ive tri­umph than con­ser­vat­ive out­side groups giv­ing Demo­crats, back­ing former Blue Dog Rep. Trav­is Childers (D), an out­side chance at win­ning the state.

CFG still has a num­ber of House primar­ies where they can claim primary vic­tor­ies. But in the Sen­ate land­scape, it’s Neb­raska or bust.
— Alex Roarty

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