Indeed, Alexander, McConnell, Kingston and Cassidy all voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and for symbolic repeal proposals since then. Some in the GOP leadership say the intraparty struggle is only about tactics, not the bottom line. Carr insists that’s exactly the point.
“Their presumption is that tactics don’t matter because the outcome would be the same,” he said. “But it wouldn’t. There wasn’t a single Republican vote that passed the Affordable Care Act, whether we’re talking establishment, tea party, moderate, conservative, whatever. … So if it’s so bad — and it is — the question is why did establishment Republicans not fight to defund it?”
Leaders of national conservative groups, which have been key players in recent Senate elections, say the distinction is an important consideration as they decide endorsements.
“I would say that any candidate who is a vocal opponent of that (defunding) strategy would certainly cause us hesitation,” said Easton Randall of FreedomWorks political action committee. “The burden is on them to explain what they would do differently to achieve a goal we all claim to share.”
So far, FreedomWorks has endorsed McDaniel over Cochran in Mississippi and Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn over Sasse. The group is watching several other races.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, split with FreedomWorks in Nebraska, siding with Sasse. But the fund endorsed Maness in Louisiana, Bevin in Kentucky and McDaniel in Mississippi, among others. DeMint now runs the Heritage Foundation, whose political arm also is monitoring several other races.
Those groups’ recent record is mixed. Democrats are hoping for a repeat of 2010 and 2012 races where the far right groups backed less-viable candidates who lost general elections in Colorado, Nevada, Delaware and Indiana. But the same groups also helped elect Lee, Cruz and Marco Rubio in the presidential swing state of Florida.