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Do GOP Leaders Get that Fiscal Conservatism is a Winning Issue?

If you want to understand why the Republican Party has been having difficulty in recent years convincing the American people that it stands for something, take a look at how Empire State Republicans have picked their candidates for two successive special elections.

Earlier this year, Republican leaders* in the state’s 20th congressional district tapped Assembly Republican Minority Leader Joe Tedisco to fill the seat of Kristen Gillibrand when Governor David Paterson picked her to replace Hillary Clinton in the United States Senate.  That political insider waited until about two weeks before the March 31 election to come out against the spendthrift “stimulus.”  His refusal to say how he would have voted on the biggest legislative initiative of that time period cost him the support of many Republicans (as well as fiscally conservative independents) and dampened the enthusiasm of others.

After initially leading in the polls, he lost by a whisker to Democrat Scott Murphy.

Party leaders in the adjacent 23rd District don’t seem to have learned much from this spring’s results when they picked a candidate to fill the seat of Rep. John McHugh, recently sworn in as President Obama’s Secretary of the Army.  Instead of tapping a fiscal conservative, they tapped another squishy Republican insider, state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava “easily,” according to the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund, “the most liberal member of the GOP caucus in the state legislature, scoring a 15% rating on the Conservative Party’s scorecard.”  Apparently, party leaders thought support for “abortion-rights” could help her “appeal to independents.”  Well the latest poll has her “running third among independents.”

And the one who leads among voters unaffiliated with either party is Doug Hoffman running the Conservative Party ticket after party leaders tapped the more liberal Scozzafava (instead of him) as the party’s nominee.

Party elders must have thought that her social liberalism would help her with swing voters, but, as Michelle Malkin notes:

Scozzafava is an abortion rights advocate who favors gay marriage. It would be one thing if Scozzafava balanced that social liberalism with fiscal conservatism. But as a state assemblywoman, she voted for massive tax increases, Democratic budgets and a $180 million state bank bailout. She also supported the trillion-dollar federal stimulus package — which every House Republican voted against.

No wonder Tea Party activists are upset.

You know, maybe it’s her support for big government at a time when Americans are becoming increasingly wary of big government that has cost the GOP nominee support.

It’s one thing (and an essential one, in my view) for Republicans to downplay (or downright avoid) social issues, it’s quite another to ditch fiscal conservatism.  It’s the failure to hold true to the small government principles of Ronald Reagan and the Contract with America that cost the GOP majority.  And it’s state parties, like those in New York, whose blindness to the lessons of 2006 and 2008, seem certain to prevent the party from regaining it any time in the near future.

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*In New York party leaders pick the candidates for special elections.

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10 Comments

  1. And what about the blatant hypocrisy of Conservatives? In 2006, Tom DeLay unexpectedly resigned his seat, which left the Republicans without a candidate on the ballot.

    The Libertarian Party had a fine candidate in Bob Smither, a conservative local crime fighter hero, who pledged to “Caucus with Republicans,” if elected.

    Despite enormous pleas and begging from local libertarian Republicans, the Houston/Ft. Bend County GOPs decided to run a ridiculous write-in campaign for Shelly Sekula-Gibbs.

    Of course, it was predictable. Democrat Nick Lampson clobbered her. Smither still ended up getting 6%. He could’ve won, if it were not for the stubborness of Conservatives locally AND nationally (numerous appeals were made to Erick Erickson and RedState to no avail.)

    And now the Conservatives want moderate and libertarian Republicans to back their 3rd party Conservative candidate?

    I’d probably otherwise support Hoffman over Scazzofava were it not for the hypocrisy on 3rd parties by Conservatives – okay to back a Conservative, but not a Libertarian.

    Comment by Eric Dondero — October 16, 2009 @ 6:55 pm - October 16, 2009

  2. There is certainly a faction of the Republican party, call it the Frum/Brooks big government wing, who feel the exact same way about fiscal conservatism that you do about social conservatism (Actually they share your views on social conservatism as well) — that times have changed, people have become “enlightened” and thats not what people really want anymore.

    (You still have not showed, by the way, any evidence whatsoever that de-emphasizing social conservatism would bring success for the GOP. Nor cited any examples of that strategy working. Nor have you explained why that strategy did NOT work in 2006 and 2008. Nor have you done anything whatsoever to refute the very recent, very stark evidence that social conservatism does well even in the most liberal states where moderate Republicans do not, but I digress, I cant force you to actually make your case. And I certainly cant find any support for it at ALL. Apparently neither can you.)

    But as Ronald Reagan illustrated, and Bush to some degree, Republicans must unite fiscal, foreign policy AND social conservatives in order to win. (Yes, fiscal conservatives united behind Bush — they just ended up being disappointed).

    Comment by American Elephant — October 17, 2009 @ 4:01 am - October 17, 2009

  3. Eric,

    The Republican party does not exist to elect other parties to office. If libertarians want to get elected, they should run as Republicans, as Ron Paul learned the hard way.

    Comment by American Elephant — October 17, 2009 @ 4:02 am - October 17, 2009

  4. American Elephant,

    You’re talking to the greatest advocate in the Nation for Libertarians working within the GOP. I’m the Publisher of Libertarian Republican. I’m the Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus. I’m the guy that got Ron Paul to switch back to the GOP in the early 1990s, and helped him win his Congressional seat back in 1996.

    Perhaps you misunderstand the Smithers situation. Again, THERE WAS NO REPUBLICAN ON THE BALLOT! It was a special circumstance; A fluke election.

    And even with no Republican on the ballot, the Conservatives still chose to run a silly write-in effort, instead of backing the “very Republican leaning” Libertarian candidate who was on the ballot.

    It was a chance for us Republicans to show our Libertarian friends that they mattered as part of the broader GOP coalition. And we Republicans blew it!

    Made my job of outreach to Libertarians for the GOP 100 times more harder.

    Comment by Eric Dondero — October 17, 2009 @ 10:45 am - October 17, 2009

  5. [...] Do GOP Leaders Get that Fiscal Conservatism is a Winning Issue? [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Hey, Ms. Scozzafava, How’s that “Stimulus” Working out for New York? — October 17, 2009 @ 12:36 pm - October 17, 2009

  6. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, under attack from the Federal Government for doing his job.

    Phoenix Arizona Kidnapping Capitol of the U.S.A. Homeland security playing politics with American’s safety?

    http://youhavetobethistalltogoonthisride.blogspot.com/2009/10/pheonix-arizona-kidnapping-capitol-of.html

    Comment by keyboard jockey — October 17, 2009 @ 1:46 pm - October 17, 2009

  7. Hi all. Well it seems evident that the GOP is pretty well controlled by soft conservatives. Why aren’t the real conservatives not joining the local district associations (or whatever they are called) in order to control the candidate nominations? This mess in NY 23rd is going to result in a Dem winning a relatively safe GOP seat. While this may not mean a lot this year it does not bode well for 2010. If the GOP returns to it’s base then you may have fewer independents running which splits the conservative votes and you may have more people turning out to vote.
    FYI, I’m a conservative from Canada and when we have our elections we have 5 parties running for votes in Quebec and 4 parties running in the country overall. Vote splitting can be a real issue (well, it can also be fun to watch in some cases).

    Comment by scr_north — October 18, 2009 @ 3:09 am - October 18, 2009

  8. Eric,

    Good man, sounds like you are doing good work.

    If we can get the libertarian and conservative factions of the GOP to work together, we can oust the “big government republican” leadership that is currently screwing up the party.

    But i think you are expecting too much to get people to vote for a candidate in another party. I saw a poll recently that showed only 14% of Americans know the difference between Republicans and Democrats. I expect even fewer know what the Libertarian party stands for.

    Comment by American Elephant — October 18, 2009 @ 4:17 am - October 18, 2009

  9. [...] all changed upon learning from the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund that Scozzafava was “the most liberal member of the [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Doug Hoffman for Congress — October 30, 2009 @ 2:52 am - October 30, 2009

  10. [...] leads me to repeat the question I asked in my very first post on this election: Do GOP Leaders Get that Fiscal Conservatism is a Winning Issue? Comments [...]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » The Remarkable resilience of Reaganite Ideas of Reform — November 2, 2009 @ 7:04 pm - November 2, 2009

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