By Dick Morris on February 7, 2011

As we canvass the nation to look for good candidates to run against incumbent Democratic Senators, let’s remember that a race against an entrenched Democrat with seasoned political operatives advising him is no place for our nominee to get on-the-job training. We need toughened, experienced candidates who have been through it before.

We have an excellent chance to defeat twelve Democratic incumbents (and to pick up the vacant seat of North Dakota’s Kent Conrad). They are: Ben Nelson (D-Neb), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jim Webb (D-Va), Jon Tester (D-Mont), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Herbert Kohl (D-Wisc). But we can only do so with candidates who are a notch above the ones who lost their challenges in 2010.

In Nebraska, Florida, Virginia, Montana, and Missouri excellent front runners have emerged. (In Florida three of them and in Montana two). These candidates should be able to win in November.

So, in each case, the Tea Party supporters should carefully vet the established front running Republican candidates. Where they are found wanting – as Mike Castle was in Delaware and Charlie Crist was in Florida – by all means find opponents who are genuine conservatives and back them in the primary. But when the likely Republican nominee is a solid conservative, don’t mess around. Get behind him or her.

For example:

Missouri — Republicans have a strong front runner in former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. She’s a lifelong fiscal and economic conservative, pro-life, anti-gun control, and against cap and trade and Obamacare. When she was Treasurer, she was the first state official in the nation to bar the use of her state pension funds from investments in companies doing business with Iran or North Korea. Why look further?

Virginia — George Allen, who lost narrowly to Senator Jim Webb in 2006, is as strong and conservative a candidate as you can get. He was a tremendously popular governor who only lost the Senate race because of the political headwinds of 2006 caused by discontent over the war in Iraq. Again, why look further?

This is not to say that all establishment candidates are good. Examine their records. Nail down their positions. Don’t compromise. If they are squishy on tax cuts or spending reductions or Obamacare or cap and trade or card check or earmarks, then give them a battle. But if they are all solid conservatives, go for the candidate who has been through it before. There are fewer skeletons in his or her closet, he or she has got statewide recognition and approval, and will probably win in November.

What more can you ask?

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