The Senate Republicans in the 111th Congress have been able to unite on many if not most of the issues facing them in 2009. But they are not quite so unified when it comes to selecting candidates for the 112th Congress.
The rift is evident between the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senate Republican Steering Committee chairman Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has set up the Senate Conservatives Fund specifically to counter the Republican establishment when he feels it is throwing its support behind a centrist candidate. DeMint is looking for strong conservative bona fides.
The fissure is already showing in California, where Carly Fiorina is getting help from Cornyn while DeMint talks to the more conservative Chuck DeVore. Florida is another spot, with many in the establishment backing Charlie Crist while conservatives are throwing their weight and money behind Marco Rubio.
TheHill.com notes that the rift is starting to show in New Hampshire and Kentucky as well.
Cornyn has pledged to keep the NRSC out of any primary battles and said any acts of support on his part are as an individual senator and should not be construed as policy of the NRSC, and a spokesperson noted that the goals of Cornyn and DeMint are the same — to whittle down the Democratic numerical advantage in the chamber.
RBR-TVBR observation: A strong ideological fault line within a party means one thing – contested primaries. As we saw in the upstate New York battle over an open Congressional seat, any such contest has the potential to promote a great deal of extra political advertising.