Conservatives ready final salvo in war with GOP establishment

Bloodied but unbowed after a largely unsuccessful primary season, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) isn’t backing down in the final months of the midterms.

ADVERTISEMENT
The group on Thursday launched radio and television ads in Kansas highlighting questions over where Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) lives, making a final play in the group's last remaining incumbent primary. It endorsed Roberts's  challenger, radiologist Milton Wolf, but he has thus far failed to pick up much traction against the senator.

Both spots hit Roberts on the national debt and ObamaCare, and they feature a clip of Roberts commenting in a recent interview that, "Every time I get an opponent, uh, I mean every time I get a chance, I'm home."

“Pat Roberts: Liberal in Washington, rarely in Kansas,” narrators say in the ads.

Roberts has been dogged by reports outlining the scant time he’s spent in the state over the past year and the fact that he rents out his home in Kansas and stays with donors when he returns to the state. Similar residency questions have contributed to the defeat of incumbent senators in the past, and his detractors seized on his most recent gaffe about coming home for an opponent as further evidence of how out of touch he is with the state.

The television and radio ads are running statewide on a buy that the group says “will approach a half million dollars.”

And SCF President Ken Cuccinelli hinted at activity in Louisiana, where the group is backing retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness over establishment pick Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) to take on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) this fall.

“We’ll certainly be in Louisiana. There you have Mary Landrieu, her donor, and the conservative, and we’re backing the conservative. And that one’s going to go longer,” he said, predicting a runoff election, the outcome in Louisiana if no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote and one that’s expected because Landrieu faces flagging support.

He also left the door open to engaging in Tennessee, where Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R) main primary challenger, state Rep. Joe Carr, has begun to pick up traction and recently nabbed the endorsements of the Tea Party Patriots and conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham.

The SCF hasn’t yet waded into the primary, and indicated early in the race on it wasn’t interested in supporting Carr. But Cuccinelli didn’t rule it out.

“We’re watching it. We’ll see how that develops, and we hope that it does, but we’ve been sticking with Dr. Wolf for a while now, and we’ll keep going with him,” he said.

Another race in which their engagement remains unclear is the Mississippi Senate primary, which continues to draw national attention despite Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary runoff win there over three weeks ago.

Cochran challenger Chris McDaniel, a state senator who was endorsed and supported financially by the SCF, has not yet conceded and alleges Cochran’s 7,667-vote margin was the product of voter fraud. 

As he continues to gather evidence to try to force a court to rule for a special primary election to take place, McDaniel is launching a “Truth and Justice Tour” across Mississippi to gin up his supporters.

The SCF initially contributed $70,000 to a legal fund McDaniel set up to help finance the effort. But Cuccinelli was noncommittal when asked whether the group would continue to support McDaniel’s cause.

“We certainly did an initial round of fundraising to help them fund. We’re watching to see how that develops and trusting Chris McDaniel to make the right calls there about how to proceed,” he said.

Though a recent survey showed 63 percent of his supporters think McDaniel should continue with the challenge, a number of prominent conservatives have called for him to give up the fight, including Club for Growth President Chris Chocola — whose group endorsed McDaniel but congratulated Cochran after his runoff win — and conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Cuccinelli declined to evaluate whether McDaniel had provided enough evidence for his contention that Cochran had “stolen” the runoff by courting ineligible Democratic voters.

“Election law is pretty case-specific whether you proceed or not. As yet, I haven’t heard how many double votes there were. It’s my understanding they still haven’t gotten access to all the poll books, so it’s going to take a little while for that to unfold and we’ll see what’s there when it’s done,” he said.

But Cuccinelli was unequivocal in his lack of interest in mending fences with the GOP establishment and particularly the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has bested SCF-backed candidates in just about every race where the two went toe to toe.

“If they ever came around to fight for Republican principles, you bet we could work with them, but they can’t even find them,” he said.

“They’re so blind to principles, they can’t even find them. Our members know this, and they’re disgusted by it.”

Updated at 2 p.m. to clarify the Club's stance on the Mississippi race.