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Rebels on the Right

The GOP establishment feels the heat.

Mar 1, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 23 • By FRED BARNES
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The success of Dold in the House seat being vacated by Representative Mark Kirk “came out of nowhere,” Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois told me. Schock had endorsed the favorite, Coulson. Dold defeated Coulson, 39 percent to 30 percent, in a multiple candidate race.

Once again, the winner ran against Washington and excessive spending. Dold labeled Coulson “a Springfield insider” as a legislator and one who voted for “tax and spend” bills. As a social moderate, Dold nicely fits the district, which President Obama won with 61 percent of the vote in 2008. Kirk, by the way, won the Republican primary for the Senate seat once held by Obama.

What distinguished Walsh’s victory was the role of tea party activists. Without them, he would have had little chance of winning. After his victory—Walsh got 35 percent in a six-way race—he traveled to Nashville to speak at the National Tea Party Convention. “I ran as a tea party candidate in the primary, and I’m going to run as a tea party candidate in the general,” he said.

When Melissa Bean, the Democratic incumbent, learned that Walsh would be her opponent, she expressed relief, regarding him as the weakest of the Republicans in the primary. Her reaction was reminiscent of how pleased aides of President Carter were in 1980 when Ronald Reagan emerged as his Republican opponent. They were happy to have escaped the awesome juggernaut of a Howard Baker campaign.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who’s been recruiting Republican candidates for the House, says Republican incumbents across the country may face tough primary races. “I’ve told a lot of Republicans, ‘Don’t think this is just an anti-Democrat year.’ There’s a movement to throw everybody out.”

But it’s worse for Democrats. “We have to face this in the primary,” McCarthy says. “Democrats have to face it in the general.”

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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