Senator Rob Portman and the Mike Lee Problem

What do you call a person who pays for something he is dead set against?  Senator!

And so it is with the GOP establishment.  The House has voted to repeal Obamacare almost 40 times, which we all understand to be a fool’s errand.  Where the real damage can and SHOULD be done is with the budget process.  The Congress, if it still has power, controls the money in Washington DC.  The weak-kneed Republican leadership has never drawn a battle line from which they wouldn’t retreat.  Continuing resolutions have given the federal government uncontrolled access to whatever money they ask for, and they’ve spent it on dance lessons, conventions, and daily air travel.  Forgive us GOP if we don’t say thank you.

Sen. Mike Lee has a letter that says he will continue to fund all the stupid portions of the federal government, but he won’t fund Obamacare.  Sounds overly-generous to me, but it is the last line in the sand we can draw when it comes to Obamacare.  Next year, everybody will need to look at exchanges, private insurance at whatever cost they offer, or pay a fine by April 2015.  And what comes after 2015?  The campaigns and elections of 2016, which includes Senator Rob Portman.

Our Republican Governor John Kasich has tried to get Ohio to partake in Obamacare’s Medicaid buy-in program and this has infuriated Ohio’s Tea Parties.  It is likely that they will challenge him in a primary or (worse) run a conservative third-party candidate.  There simply aren’t enough conservatives in Ohio that can survive two candidates on the right and we’ll be setting the carpet for Democrat Ed Fitzgerald.  Kasich’s poll numbers are up right now, but I forsee some problems in the months to come.

But Kasich’s problems won’t come close to Portman’s if he continues to support the funding of Obamacare.  The farm bill, internet sales tax, and his dance around the amnesty issue have made Portman a player for the establishment when we need people on the opposition.  Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul are showing people how it’s done.  If Rob Portman isn’t being helpful, then he’s likely to be shown the door in 2016.

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Weak or Vulnerable GOP Congressmen

It’s nice to receive validation, especially from folks at the Madison Project who I believe cross over into RealClearPolitics and RedState.  The Madison Project has scored the last Congress on conservative votes, and then compared that to the conservativeness of their respective district.  In looking at their “Hall of Shame,” we can see which Representatives should be voting more conservatively than they currently are.  Many of the greatest offenders come from weaker Republicans in strong GOP districts in the South, although there are many strong GOP districts across the country.  (“Hall of Fame” kudos to Jim Jordan, and also to Steve Chabot who didn’t make the cut but is fighting the good fight.)

Most of Ohio’s Republican districts would be considered leaning or swing, and they include the four who I’ve previously tagged as weak or vulnerable.  Both Steve Stivers (OH-15) and Pat Tiberi (OH-12) were redistricted away from central Columbus into areas which should be more Republican.  These two are ripe for GOP primaries.  (The Madison Project has Tiberi in a D+1 district, but I think that is the old district and not the new one.)  These two do NOT show up in Cook’s current Race Ratings and any Republican should be a winner, so why not challenge these two and get somebody in Congress more conservative?

The other two might be a little more tricky.  David Joyce (OH-14) (replacing Steve LaTourette, and who seems to have a similar temperament although we’ll wait for more data) and Jim Renacci (OH-16) are in districts that are slightly more Democrat-leaning than the 2002 map.  LaTourette had earned respect from his district and Republican challenges weren’t done and Democrat challenges fell flat.  If Joyce were to lose a primary to a more conservative candidate, the national Democrats will throw everything at this district because it is certainly winnable for them.  Ashtabula County has always leaned Democrat, and this district now includes more parts of Summit County which is certainly more Democrat.

Renacci’s district now includes the southwestern parts of Cuyahoga as well as parts of Medina County which are swing areas.  His district may be a bit more conservative than Joyce’s, but Democrats are pretty active and will likely have a high-profile candidate run on their side.  A primary generally hurts the incumbent, and it would be a struggle for either Renacci or the challenger to follow up with a November win.  It doesn’t mean somebody won’t try, and maybe Cook sees something that I don’t.  Like Stivers and Tiberi, Renacci is NOT listed as a vulnerable seat.

Moving to the Cook Report, there are two other seats that he has as “likely Republican.”  Bob Gibbs has a completely new district and people in the rural north are generally more Democrat than the rural central.  Bill Johnson’s district travels the southeast edge of the state bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  The Appalachian areas are becoming more Republican and I think Gibbs is the more vulnerable of the two.

The big race in 2014 in Ohio will be for Governor.  Active Tea Party members are upset at the Medicaid expansion proposed by Kasich, and may consider a challenge in a primary.  I would be very concerned if they choose to challenge in the general, however, as a third party.  Kasich barely won in the big year of 2010, and if he loses just 5% to a third party then that might get a Democrat back in the statehouse.

Next year’s summer and fall should be all about getting out the conservative vote, but the winter and spring better be about getting a conservative candidate.  I hope conservatives are considering challenges at least to Stivers and Tiberi (and throw in Boehner), and we can push the next House even further to the right.  Gowdy, Amash, Chaffez, Brindenside, Gohmert, and Jim Jordan need all the help they can get.