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Can the GOP's nominees veer back to the center?

The good news for Republicans is that in the contests for the Senate seats vacated by President Obama and Vice President Biden, the party has put up two moderate and popular candidates.

In Delaware, Rep. Mike Castle, a long-time moderate, looks so strong that even Biden’s son Beau decided not to contest him.

On Tuesday, Republicans got their most formidable candidate in Illinois with the nomination of Rep. Mark Kirk from the North Shore suburbs. Kirk won his primary easily. He will face Democratic State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who won a three-way primary with 39 percent of the vote.

But a funny thing happened to the moderate Kirk on the way to nomination. He ran into static and outright opposition from the Tea Party right. And while he easily dispatched his opponents, he had to move right in doing so. Kirk ran into a lot of grief on the right when he was one of only eight House Republicans to vote for the Democrats’ cap-and-trade plan for global warming. One conservative website referred to him as a “cap-and-traitor.” At the time, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared: "There are going to be very dire consequences for those who voted for this bill." Rush Limbaugh complained: "It's the Republicans that made the damn thing pass, for crying out loud.''

So Kirk sought the support of Sarah Palin, famed for her “drill baby drill” position on energy as part of his effort to court a primary electorate that stood to his right.

Democrats are hoping that the Tea Party movement will help them limit their losses this year by pushing moderate Republicans to the right in primaries. Even if moderates prevail and win nomination, the theory goes, they will be weakened by their at least temporary journey away from the political center. Kirk’s case will offer the most important test of this idea in November.

By E.J. Dionne  | February 3, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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Comments

The real question is when are the f...ing liberals Rahm Manuel's term not mine... what are the left-wing whackos coming back to center?

Would someone please take their private jet and pick up Nancy Pelosi? nancy likes to get all boozed up.

Please send me the bar tab... I'm used to paying for it by now!!!

Posted by: ravioliman6666 | February 3, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I think the place people are looking for moderation is on the Democratic side. You keep defining the Tea Party as ultra-right wing when they are mostly independent moderates looking for some sensible responsibility in Washington - something we have not seen from the President, Speaker or Senate Majority Leader. Obama is telling his Democrats to get out and talk to the folks instead of watching the talking heads on cable. They did that (town halls) and heard loud and clear that the HealthCare bill - as constructed - Cap and Trade Bill and the reckless spending were not what they wanted. He then tells them we need to finish the Healthcare bill (vs working in a bipartisan fashion to recontruct it) and submits one of the most irresponsible Budgets ever - but calls for a Era of Responsibility??

Posted by: lynnman1 | February 3, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

On a state level, yes the Repubs can elect moderates (see Mass), but on a national level, nope.

Posted by: jjj141 | February 3, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"They did that (town halls) and heard loud and clear that the HealthCare bill - as constructed - Cap and Trade Bill and the reckless spending were not what they wanted. He then tells them we need to finish the Healthcare bill (vs working in a bipartisan fashion to recontruct it) and submits one of the most irresponsible Budgets ever - but calls for a Era of "

A couple of things, first off the Tea Bagger are sponsored by Freedomworks & Dick Army, about as right wing as you get. There are some moderates in the Tea Partiers, but not many of them. As far as the town halls go these people were ridiculous, shouting down other citizens. And to boot they didn't even have a clue what was in the bills.

As far as bi-partisanship goes, the Repubs have no interest in any type of HC reform, so its useless at this point to involve them...they had their chance and said no. Let them filibuster.

Posted by: jjj141 | February 3, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

jj141

You can mock and try to ridicule the people but your thinking remains shallow and transparent. There are many good ideas put up by the Republicans that have not be debated. When they say bills that were absolutely not good for the country and you are shut out of the debate - why would you not expect them to vote no? Putting all the people in the Town Halls or the Tea Party bucket you have defined way off base. You can always find segments in any voiced movement that is extreme - but try openning your prejudiced eyes just a little.

Posted by: lynnman1 | February 3, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Interesting comments from the right wing nutjobs today, seem to fall into two categories, both of which are easily refuted.

Tea-baggers are not extreme, but are "moderates". It is the Democrats who need to moderate their positions. Easily refuted by looking the photographs or videos from any tea-bagger rally, the screaming and ranting at the healthcare forums, the interviews that were conducted at their march in DC (followers of Glenn Beck to a person), and on and on.

Republicans have good ideas to solve our major problems, but haven't been given the opportunity. Easily refuted by the fact that the Repub thugs did nothing about the deficit, health care, education, glo9bal competitiveness, and made a hash of defense and foreign relations when they had the reins of power for 8 years. Reagan, Bush and Bush-chimp ran up huge deficits, and CLinton's deficit busting budget (like Obama's deficit commission) didn't get a SINGLE Republican vote in Congress.

I can see and hear the right wing crazies. Where are the moderates?

Posted by: sambam | February 3, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Let the conservatives beat up on each other until they die of it.

Posted by: donrus1 | February 3, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone notice the the comments on the left area usually full of mocking, ridicule, extreme generalizations and hate? How about some rationale debate?

Posted by: lynnman1 | February 3, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Eisenhower was dense
Nixon was a Crook
Ford was always falling down somehow
Reagon was Senile
Bush 41 was a bureaucrat
Bush 43 was Criminal

Dayum...Can't you come up with some insult to Republicans other than they are "stupid" or "criminal." They're "criminal" cause they show Democrats to be the left-wing, hate-American, goolag-loving, killing-fields justifying traitors they've become since 1972?

Posted by: wjc1va | February 3, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

A quarter of the Fox/Limbaugh Republicans think Obama is an Al Qaedda sympathizer that wants the terrorists to succeed.
Over 60% of them aren't quit sure he's a US citizen, roughly the same number think he may need to be impeached. No particular reason, it just might be a good idea. A quarter want their individual states to declare independence from the United States.
Obviously there is no need to compromise with those clowns, they are the lunatic fringe. Nor, according to polling, does the electorate want the democrats to become the "sane" Republican party. They elected Democrats, it's time for the elected Democrats to fulfill that mandate.

Posted by: dijetlo | February 3, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

While the liberal Democrats seem to hate conservative Republicans, we conservative Republicans are beginning to love the looney, leftist fringe that owns the Democrat party. What's not to love about that wacky bunch of socialist, tree huggers that have made a train wreck of the Democrat party in just one year.

The wicked witch of the West, Nancy Pelosi.

Deadpan Harry Reid.

Barney Frank, the purple dinosaur.

Rahm "Dead Fish" Emmanuel.

Barack Hussein Obama, the liberal jihadist.

Joe "Big Mouth" Biden.

What a crazy bunch of sideshow freaks.

High entertainment!

Posted by: battleground51 | February 4, 2010 6:33 AM | Report abuse

In simplest terms, the answer is "no". We're dealing with economic conditions that have virtually no precedent other than the Great Depression, and the electorate is justifiably afraid and angry. The Tea Party participants are simply the most vocal and visible people, but the reality is that tens of millions of people have good reason to be afraid. We, all of us, are looking for fast, and preferably easy and painless solutions -- and there aren't any. As a quick example, consider monetary policy: a strong dollar keeps import prices low, but it also means that we lose manufacturing jobs in the United States. A weak dollar helps our exports and encourages more U.S. jobs -- but the immediate perception is an increase in prices, which is painful. Many other decisions are at least equally, if not more, complex.
The challenge is to have a serious national debate about goals and priorities, but even if we had the resources for intelligent discussion, we don't have time. When you have a foreclosure notice in hand, there's limited opportunity to sit down and consider how to reform the banking system. Our two party system has become adversarial, and the titular leaders have no choice but follow the public mood and the party line.

Posted by: su10 | February 4, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Teabaggers as moderates? Maybe on Bizzaro Earth, but in Florida, on the Earth where I live, the teabaggers are no such thing.

I've been to a few of their rallies and to one town hall held by Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-Rich People, nominally representing Florida's Dist. 13), and I've heard them whispering to each other about that "n****r in the white house" and declaring to each other that Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya. We're talking Wack City here, people. You say Keynesian, the teabaggers say "communism." They are pretty much the same crowd as Lyndon LaRouche's old followers, with the same hatreds and fears.

Another amusing teabag characteristic here in Florida is the number of old people collecting Socialist Security who are angry that they aren't getting a raise this year, but are firmly against a single government dollar going anywhere but into their own pockets. Even funnier are the baggies who stand up and whine about the government wanting to get involved in their health care.

"Keep government out of Medicare," is a huge baggie rallying cry around here, sure to draw applause from the dimmer bulbs in a teabag crowd, which seems to be most of them.

If these bag people are really moderates and possibly a majority movement, not a LaRouche-style vocal fringe bunch, we might as fold America today and let our corporations sponsor political campaigns and essentially buy our government. Their choices, bad though they would surely be for most Americans, would almost certainly be saner and less harmful than those supported by the hate-filled teabag whackos I see here in Florida.

Posted by: roblimo | February 4, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

The tea-party-bagger is a rabid animal, growling and nipping at the heels of the moderate of either party, driving him/her further and further to the right. Shame on us for allowing the rabid to dominate the field.

We've got to round the hyena's up and take away their power. Who is up to it?

Posted by: goodgovernment | February 4, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

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