posted by GeoT
In The Conservative Cross-hairs:
In what could be a nightmare scenario for Republican Party officials, conservative activists are gearing up to challenge leading GOP candidates in more than a dozen key House and Senate races in 2010.
Conservatives and tea party activists had already set their sights on some of the GOP’s top Senate recruits — a list that includes Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida, former Rep. Rob Simmons in Connecticut and Rep. Mark Kirk in Illinois, among others.
But their success in Tuesday’s upstate New York special election, where grass-roots efforts pushed GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava to drop out of the race and helped Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman surge into the lead on the eve of Election Day, has generated more money and enthusiasm than organizers ever imagined.
Activists predict a wave that could roll from California to Kentucky to New Hampshire and that could leave even some GOP incumbents — Utah Sen. Bob Bennett is one — facing unexpectedly fierce challenges from their right flank.
“I would say it’s the tip of the spear,” said Dick Armey, the former GOP House majority leader who now serves as chairman of FreedomWorks, an organization that has been closely aligned with the tea party movement. “We are the biggest source of energy in American politics today.”
“What you’re going to see,” said Armey, “is moderates and conservatives across the country in primaries.”
These high-stakes primaries, pitting the activist wing of the party against theestablishment wing, stand to have a profound impact on the 2010 election landscape since they will create significant problems for moderate candidates recruited by the national party precisely because they appear well-suited to win in places that are not easily — or even plausibly — won by conservative candidates.
The tensions between the two visions threaten to limit the party’s gains in an election year that is shaping up in its favor.
Party strategists worry that well-funded, well-organized challenges from the right could force Republicans to exhaust precious resources on messy primary fights — or force moderate candidates to adopt more strident positions early on that could haunt them during the final months of the campaign.
“For me, what this says is, we need to take a deep breath and decide whether [moderates and conservatives] work together or not,” said Tom Davis, the former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “And if we don’t, it can get very, very ugly.”