By Markos Moulitsas - 01/26/10 09:23 PM EST
In an era of conservative ideological fundamentalism, it’s only a
matter of time before the Tea Party crowd starts taking a closer look
at North Dakota’s Republican governor, John Hoeven, the current
favorite to win his state’s open Senate seat this November.
Indeed, Hoeven was once in charge of North Dakota’s socialist — there’s no other word for it — Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in the country. At the time, in mid-1990, Hoeven began flirting with a political career, and his initial instinct was to do so as a Democrat. In fact, in a 1996 letter to the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party that was recently acquired by the blog North Decoder, Hoeven wrote, “The recent call for me to seek elective office has caused me to reflect on political party affiliation … I have worked closely with and developed great respect for Democratic-NPL Party leaders. I believe the Party supports small business, quality jobs, education and a safety net for those who need it. For these reasons, I am joining the North Dakota-NPL Party.”
Hoeven didn’t run for governor in 1996, and by 2000, when he did want to run, he realized that his chances would be better as a Republican. Yet that was a political decision, an opportunistic one. Before he made that electoral calculation, he’d made his true feelings known.
As governor, he has made the right conservative noises on some issues, like gay marriage and abortion. Yet on other issues, he’s been decidedly less ideological. He was a big fan of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, and still features the legislation as the top “highlight” on his official website.
Such talk is clearly anathema to the teabagger movement, and there are signs they will step up their opposition to Hoeven’s Senate bid. Tea Party organizers in the state are planning a convention for mid-February, and Hoeven will be in their sights. “There is a lot of unrest about Gov. Hoeven basically being handed the keys to the GOP car, and so I wouldn’t be shocked if there is criticism of him and his spending,” one organizer told the Grand Forks Herald.
Ultimately, Hoeven’s record suggests social conservatism, melded to a more liberal outlook on fiscal issues. As Obama faces a smaller Democratic majority in 2011, Hoeven could likely be one of a tiny group of Republicans willing to reach out across the aisle on economic issues. That may fare well for a dysfunctional Senate, but it’s not what modern conservatives expect from their Republicans.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).