Erick Erickson and Bloggers’ War on the GOP Establishment

Nov 16, 2009 3:40pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Conservative activists scored a victory of sorts earlier this month when they rallied behind a third-party candidate in an upstate New York House race — ultimately pushing the moderate Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, out of the race. That election, of course, wound up costing the GOP a seat in what should have been safe territory. But the same activists are planning to target a handful of other Republican candidates next year in primaries — candidates who, like Scozzafava, tilt too far left for some conservatives’ tastes. “The message is pretty simple: The Republican Party seems to be in a leftward drift in candidate recruitment, and I think when the party can go right it should go right,” Erick Erickson, the founder and editor of the influential blog RedState.com, said today on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.” “We’re seeing the situation with the National Republican [Senatorial] Campaign Committee … that when two moderates are in a race together — for example, Connecticut [Linda] McMahon vs. [Rob] Simmons, they’re sitting out and declaring themselves neutral,” Erickson said. “But when a moderate and a conservative are pitted against each other, even in a place like Florida, they’re coming out for the moderate. And that really angers the base.” Among the targets for 2010: Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., who’s running for Senate against the conservative state House speaker, Marco Rubio; and Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, whose support for the Wall Street bailout package and work with Democrats on health care issues has some conservatives anxious to find a new senator in one of the nation’s more conservative states. Taking on Bennett, Erickson said, “I think sends a very firm message to the Republicans, if conservatives are able to take out an incumbent Republican.” He had this message for the Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who disputed Erickson’s claim that the situation in New York’s 23rd congressional district was a “win” for conservatives. “Michael Steele’s problem is that he continues to make this mistake of inflating the conservative movement to be the Republican Party,” Erickson said. “And until he gets that out of his head, along with a lot of other Republican leaders, he’s going to keep having this problem. Conservatives and Republicans are not the same thing. And this was a victory for conservatives because we kept out the furthest-left candidate in that race.” But Erickson isn’t being as aggressive as some others in targeting establishment choices.
Of Kelly Ayotte, the favored GOP candidate in New Hampshire, he said: “There are a number of candidates up there. I know the attorney general is perceived as more moderate than some of the other candidates, but her record in office doesn’t necessarily show that. And in Illinois, where Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, is catching heat in his Senate race over his vote for “cap-and-trade” energy legislation: “You know, Illinois — I actually like Mark Kirk. I think when the Republican [Party] can go right it should go right. I’m not necessarily convinced that Illinois is one of those races where it can. So, it may need to play middle-of-the-road with someone like Mark Kirk.” You can see today’s full “Top Line” episode HERE, or, as always, at iTunes.

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