Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tuesday's Less Talked About Primary

While gallons of ink have already been spilled over Ned Lamont's defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, there was at least one other race that day where a moderate incumbent was defeated that is getting much less attention. On Tuesday, moderate Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz was unseated by conservative challenger Tim Walberg in Michigan. Schwarz was under constant attack from Walberg for being too liberal. Among his sins were supporting reproductive rights and stem cell research. Grover Norquist (buddy to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff) and his Club for Growth organization spent $1.1 million on behalf of Walberg, and they buried Schwarz in accusations that he was not a conservative. Walberg won 53% to 47%.

That primary also has relevance here in New England because it marks the first time that a Club for Growth backed challenger actually defeated an incumbent at the federal level (also on Tuesday, a Club backed candidate won a primary for an open seat in Colorado). In Rhode Island's Republican primary, Senator Lincoln Chafee faces a similar challenge from the right from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who is also backed by the Club for Growth, on September 12th. While the state of Rhode Island is much different from Michigan's 7th Congressional District, there is a palpable anti-incumbent mood in the country as a whole. The Washington post released a poll on Monday showing that only 55% of respondents approved of the way their own representative's job performance, the lowest that poll has measured since 1994 (at 51%). Even if Chafee does manage to survive his Republican primary, a Rassmussen poll has him trailing Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse by a margin of 38% to 44%.