Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Strange days for the GOP

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 10:05 AM

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It must be strange to be a Republican these days.

Members of the GOP spend more time fighting each other than they do on anything else.

It would be one thing if this internecine warfare were confined to the cage-match free-for-all that is the Republican presidential nomination process, but the carnage has bled down to the state level.

Here in Indiana, the two GOP candidates to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana – U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana, and U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Indiana – have engaged in a nasty battle over what it means to be a conservative and, yes, a Republican.

One of the latest developments in this grudge match is that Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s presidency, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, have decided to weigh in on Young’s behalf. They plan to spend $250,000 in Indiana before May 3 to help Young prevail in the primary election.

Rove and McConnell are doing so for a couple of reasons.

The first is they fear Stutzman will be a clone of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who now is running for president. They’re afraid that Stutzman, like Cruz, will wage quixotic, lone-wolf crusades to shut down the federal government unless the Republican establishment – i.e., guys like Rove and McConnell – find a way to repeal the Magna Carta, resurrect Calvin Coolidge or achieve some other equally realistic goal.

The Rove-McConnell fear is not misplaced.

A couple of years ago, during a government shutdown, Stutzman blustered that Republicans shouldn’t surrender until they “got” something. What that something might be, Stutzman didn’t know, but, whatever it was, it was worth denying old people and widows their checks and throwing the economy into chaos.

The second reason McConnell and Rove are lining up with Young is they worry Stutzman will be the second coming of Richard Mourdock.

Four years ago, Democrats had no hope of knocking off U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana. Mourdock – the state treasurer at the time and, like Stutzman, a tea party favorite – did the Democrats a favor by torpedoing Lugar from the right in the primary.

Then Mourdock became for the Democratic Party the gift that kept on giving.

He took a safe U.S. Senate race and made it competitive by telling national audiences that what he loved most about being in politics was that it allowed him to “inflict” his opinions on others and that his idea of compromise would be to have Democrats and even other Republicans do things his way.

Such pronouncements just were warm-ups.

At a U.S. Senate debate not long before the November election, Mourdock linked pregnancies as a result of rape to God’s will in such a clumsy fashion that he made the Almighty sound like an accessory to sexual assault.

Before Mourdock said that, he had a narrow lead in his race. That evaporated and Democrat Joe Donnelly won in a walk.

Worse, for Republicans, was that Mourdock took them off message at a critical time. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was gaining ground on President Barack Obama at that moment by hammering away on economic issues. Mourdock’s misstep forced Romney to talk theology rather than jobs and the GOP presidential standard-bearer never regained the momentum he’d enjoyed before Mourdock opened his mouth.

The damage might have been mitigated if Mourdock had apologized or just clarified what he meant, but he stuck to his guns, certain that no cause was greater than his need to be right.

Far right.

Stutzman, as his shutdown comments demonstrated, has similar capacities.

In response to the move Rove and McConnell have made to work with Young, Stutzman has unloaded on them as exemplars of the evil that is the Republican Party establishment.

The fact that he might have to work with at least one of those guys – McConnell – to get anything done in the Senate seems not have occurred to Stutzman.

Nor has the fact that he, too, is a Republican.

Meanwhile, Hoosier Democrats are salivating at the prospect of running against a GOP ticket of Donald Trump, Marlin Stutzman and Mike Pence. Those three create opportunities for Democrats that Democrats never could have fashioned for themselves.

It must be strange to be a Republican these days.

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John Krull

John Krull

Bio:
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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