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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inside, Outside, and TARP

The "Insider/Outsider" theme that Ceaser and Busch analyzed in the 1992 election seems to be crucial in the 2010 midterm. It helps explain why Utah Senator Robert Bennett (an ally of the minority leader and himself the son of a senator) lost renomination this weekend. Charles Cook identifies TARP as a defining issue:

All of Bennett's other problems, though, pale in comparison with TARP.

Utah's senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, who supported TARP along with Bennett and 72 other members of the Senate, privately told others he doesn't think he'd be able to win a Republican primary if he were facing re-election this year.

Republicans are very lucky that they don't have more House or Senate incumbents who supported TARP facing competitive primaries this year.

Against this backdrop, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is fighting for his political life, facing an aggressive challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

McCain seems to have the inside track at the moment, but barely. History shows that well-known and well-defined incumbents generally lose the lion's share of undecided votes, which means that this race is really close to a 50-50 proposition.

While Bennett had never gone out of his way to offend conservatives in his state, McCain has a long track record of picking fights with the more ideological wing of his party.

The now-dropped "maverick" moniker was not exactly invented during the 2008 campaign, as McCain has always been a boat-rocker in his party. Given the hostile, anti-Washington environment and particularly the rebellion over TARP, it's a wonder that McCain is hanging on at all.