It’s no accident or coincidence that Republicans in Washington are trying to shield Senate candidates Rand Paul and Sharron Angle from the national, and even local, press.
Remember the GOP establishment didn’t want these far-right, insurgent candidates in the first place, and now Republicans fear that in the year of the tea party, Paul and Angle could become the face of the party for the midterm elections. That could present an image to voters that screams radical more than it does electable.
Each time Paul or Angle stray from party talking points by promoting Social Security privatization, abolishing the Department of Education or backtracking on the Civil Rights Act, more moderate Republican candidates have to field questions about whether they agree on those issues. And every day that the Republicans are having to defend themselves against those questions is a day they lose, rather than focusing it on the economy, Obama, and the Democrats’ agenda.
The Democrats are happy to try and link the rest of the Republican field with Paul and Angle, whose positions are far more extreme than, say, GOPer Rob Portman in Ohio or Mike Castle in Delaware.
According to Think Progress, Paul (R-KY) has taken to demanding reporters submit questions in writing. He’s keeping to Fox News and other friendly media outlets. Asked about Medicare reimbursement rates at a local event recently, Paul told a reporter to submit the questions “and we’ll look at them.” He said his goal was to campaign around Kentucky. The baffled reporter rebutted: “So you’re not going to answer any questions in person?” (Watch the video here.)
Then there is Angle (R-NV), who campaigned on wanting to “phase Medicare and Social Security out,” far from a mainstream Republican message.
NRSC Chairman John Cornyn told reporters last night that Angle wouldn’t be ready to face the national press until she is “staffed up and prepared,” and she’s been huddling with Washington leaders this week to give her insurgent campaign an establishment makeover.
“I just think it’s going to take a few weeks … but you know it’s really up to her,” Cornyn (R-TX) told Brian when asked about Angle dodging reporters at the Capitol.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele tweeted this morning he’d had a “great meeting” with Angle in D.C., saying she’s the woman who will help the Republicans “fire” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in November. She also wooed conservative press at the National Review by talking about home schooling.
The Democrats are using Paul and Angle’s less mainstream views to rile up their own base, and to attempt to paint the Republicans as divided.
Case in point: DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) last week told reporters his view of the trend with Republican candidates: “I think you’ll see increasingly these candidates avoiding the national press because as they are exposed to the national press they will increasingly face the scrutiny that comes with that. And their out-of-the-mainstream positions are not going to sell very well, so the less people know about it the better off they’ll be.”
The Democrats also highlighted Republican senators seemingly uncomfortable with Angle after meeting her yesterday on Capitol Hill, sending out several news stories driving home the point.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) told The Hill yesterday he is “not planning on getting involved” in the Angle v. Reid matchup this fall, despite it being a marquee race if the Republicans want to win back the Senate.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told Politico that Angle’s Social Security privatization push is not going to be part of the GOP’s platform. “I’m not sure how she’s going to develop her policy positions with regard to entitlement programs at this point,” he said. “She’s going to have to come out and define what it is she’s for, what she’s against - including probably some of her statements that she’s made in the past and … how she’s them applying in the current economy.”
Republicans would prefer to keep the message anti-Obama, anti-spending, anti-health care, and Democrats plan to hold candidates’ feet to the fire over Angle’s Social Security comments or her idea to eliminate the Department of Education.
Democrats, meanwhile, may just try to make the fall election about former President George W. Bush. The GOP says that’s a tired strategy, but several candidates seeking office across the country hail from the Bush administration or the pre-2006 Republican Congress.
Team Reid this morning went live with a Web video mocking Angle for avoiding reporters. Watch:
Late Update: Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey weighs in, saying Paul was a “rookie” for going on non-Fox shows.