The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) response to allegations of primary favoritism has been something along the lines of “We’ll help anybody who asks for it.”
So it begs the question: If these outsider candidates think the NRSC is bluffing, why don’t they call the committee on it and seek its help?
The answer: because they’re perfectly happy to be on the outside looking in.
The committee, in recent months, has publicly helped establishment-favored candidates Carly Fiorina in California, Trey Grayson in Kentucky and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat MORE in New Hampshire. When it held fundraisers for them, their opponents cried foul. When it was reported this week that they set up joint fundraising committees with them, they cried foul again.
In response to both situations, the NRSC reiterated that it has not endorsed in those primaries. It said it would do similar things for other candidates, if asked.
But the outsider candidates don’t appear to have sought much of anything from the NRSC.
“We haven’t,” said campaign manager David Adams of the Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE campaign, which has led Grayson in some early polling. “We had one telephone conversation with the political director.”
“We haven’t,” echoed Jim Merrill, an adviser to Ayotte opponent Ovide Lamontagne. “We went and talked to them once, but it was really part of the due diligence process.”
The campaign of California state Sen. Chuck DeVore said it would not be seeking the NRSC’s help, though it has sought an endorsement in the past. Spokesman Josh Trevino said accepting NRSC help would only legitimize the committee’s conduct.
“It wouldn’t call their bluff at all; it would give them cover,” Trevino said. “They’d let us have the space, and then, every time they do something egregious for Fiorina, they’d point to that event as proof of their benevolent evenhandedness.”
Part of the rift between DeVore and the NRSC can be chalked up to a lack of communication.
Prior to the situation blowing up, DeVore sent NRSC Chairman Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) a letter in March seeking his endorsement. He sent a similar letter in late October, but neither letter asked directly for a response.
DeVore’s campaign acknowledges that it didn’t formally request a meeting until last week.
In response, the NRSC has offered to have DeVore meet with executive director Rob Jesmer. DeVore is holding out for a sit-down with Cornyn.
DeVore’s campaign insists the NRSC ignored its previous overtures and says it’s only being responsive now that it’s under attack.
The NRSC points out that it has met with candidates of all stripes in many races, including minor candidates in California, and says it had no reason to single out DeVore.
“It’s hard to draw any conclusion other than that this is a campaign that likes to play games,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. “It’s unfortunate, but if and when they’d like to stop this nonsense and work with us on defeating Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE next year, we look forward to meeting with them.”
It’s clear that the NRSC seeks out some candidates and is more proactive in helping them. But at some point, campaigns begin to embrace and use their outsider status to their advantage — especially in the current environment.
At this point, they have more to gain by staying the outsiders.
Lieberman in a GOP primary? Don’t count on it
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is talking openly about running for reelection in 2012 as a Republican.
“I like being an Independent, so that’s definitely a possibility,” Lieberman told CNN. “But I’d say all options are open.”
Lieberman said it was unlikely he would run as a Republican, but it’s too tempting not to analyze.
At this point, it’s pretty hard to see Lieberman running as a Republican. True enough, he won with lots of GOP support in 2006, but that was because he faced a completely uninspiring Republican nominee. And he faced only nominal GOP competition, because Republicans assumed he would be the Democratic nominee and win easily.
2012 is a whole new ballgame.
If this year’s primary to face Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has shown us anything, it’s that there are plenty of formidable Republicans ready to run for Senate. If Lieberman wants to contest for the GOP nomination, he’ll have to prove why he deserves it. Even facing a decent GOP candidate would put his track record to the test.
Something tells us he’d rather run as an Independent again and avoid trying to fit in with a political party.