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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