By Cameron Joseph - 11/30/11 07:13 PM EST
“I’m personally going to fundraise for Dick Lugar in Minnesota. Where we go [as a group], we haven’t finalized where we’re doing, but I’m supportive of Dick Lugar,” Coleman told The Hill. “I’m certainly going to do everything I can to help him. How that translates into what the Network does, we’ll see, but I’m an unabashed fan of Dick Lugar … I’ll certainly raise my voice with the [Network’s] board.”
Lugar is a leading target for hard-line conservatives, who are angry with his voting record. Many are backing Richard Mourdock in the Indiana primary, and while the Club has yet to officially endorse Mourdock they have run ads slamming Lugar.
Coleman’s group is focused on helping center-right candidates and giving Republicans the majority in Congress, while the Club for Growth is ideologically driven and prides itself on taking out Republicans who have not maintained a perfectly conservative fiscal record in Congress — even if that puts their seats at risk for a Democratic takeover.
Those clashing philosophies put the two organizations on a collision course.
Coleman, who had a centrist profile when he was in Congress, also praised Upton. The House member is likely to face a rematch against a Tea Party challenger who almost beat him two years ago. The Club is seriously considering backing that challenger.
“Guys like Fred Upton bring a lot to the table,” he said. “We want to be a majority party. And to be a majority party you have to win seats in the Northeast, you’ve got to win seats in the Midwest. … The members of the board haven’t taken action, but you can obviously tell where I’m coming on this: People like Fred Upton are important for a broad-based party.”
The Club for Growth fired back, warning they are ready to battle Coleman and his group in any and all primaries they decide to engage in.
“It’s just a case of an ex-senator who supported the bank bailout supporting other members of Congress who supported the bank bailout,” said Club spokesman Barney Keller. “Republicans who like big government tend to be thick as thieves.”
When asked whether he saw his group as a counterweight to organizations like the Club, Coleman said that wasn't his direct objective.
"I’m not worrying about counter-balancing, but what I worry about is what it takes to remain the majority party in this country," he said. "We’re going to support center-right candidates."
The Network’s move stands in contrast to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has promised to remain publicly neutral in all primaries this election.
Many experts predicted the proliferation of outside groups to lead to an advantage for ideological hard-liners who could bring more and more money to bear against candidates who broke with their parties. But the American Action Network’s moves show that money will be pouring in from all directions, and some centrists won’t be left to their own devices after all.