by Josh Gillespie
It might be an off year in most of the country and here in Indiana, but apparently that doesn’t mean there can’t be a little early blood drawn in potential GOP primaries. As we have become all too aware in recent years, there is no offseason in elections anymore. The next round of primaries start as soon as the General Election ends.
Things have been reasonably quiet here in Indiana, but the (former Indiana Congressman) Chris Chocola led Club for Growth lobbed their first bomb into Indiana when they announced their “target list” for 2014 which happens to oddly list 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon. What exactly are Congressman Bucshon’s sins against Conservatism? It’s hard to tell, but the best we have to go on at this point are “scores” given out by the various groups out there:
- According to the American Conservative Union, Rep. Bucshon has scored 84.00 and 88.00 (out of 100) in 2011 and 2012, good enough for “Defender of Liberty” status.
- According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Bucshon scored a perfect 100 in 2011 (scores, from what I can tell have not been released on 2012)
- Signed the Grover Norquist led Americans for Tax Reform taxpayer pledge for the 113th Congress
- Scored a 100% from the National Right to Life for the 112th Congress.
And according to Project Vote Smart scored:
- 94% from the American Farm Bureau
- 92% from the National Rifle Association
- 83% from the Gun Owners of America
- 90% from the Family Research Council
- 100% from the Catholic Advocate
What score did The Club for Growth give him? A whopping 64% in 2011, but he improved to 72% in 2012 for a lifetime record of 68%.
“The Club” has their reasons, but the simple fact is most of these scorecards weight their scores on different issues and different bills and thus provide different scores. It doesn’t mean that a member is any less conservative.
When I worked for a member of Congress, I would get emails ALL THE TIME from groups saying that they were scoring a particular vote. Some of the bills honestly seemed completely ridiculous to score. Then there were others that made complete sense and you had all the major and minor groups informing you that they’d score the vote. Knowing that a group is scoring a vote, from my experience, really didn’t play into how a member voted. Sometimes it did, but it came down to either conviction or the feedback the office was getting from the constituency.
So in the case of Larry Bucshon, the fact that he’s targeted by “The Club” seems to be based on their arbitrary scores, but if you take the arbitrary scores from the other groups Larry is the perfect fit for the 8th District. If we look at the last two congressional victims that “The Bloody Eighth” has taken, John Hostettler and Brad Ellsworth, both lost because of particular votes. For Hostettler issues had been piling up including a lack of fundraising and grassroots engagement toward the latter years of his service as well as a few questionable votes including the straw that broke that camels back, the refusal to fund flooding relief of the Wabash River after a terrible flooding season. Then Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, took advantage of the situation and used that, along with soured national sentiment towards Republicans in 2006, and won easily over Hostettler.
Then in 2010 with Obamacare the major issue during the midterms, Republicans took advantage of Democrats poor national standing and the rise of the tea party and cast Brad Ellsworth as the deciding vote in favor of Obamacare.
Buschon has had two primary challenges from the Tea Party and won each time, with a larger amount the second time around.
Are there Republicans in Congress that need to go? Maybe, but the Club for Growth should stay out of Indiana. They got involved in 2012 Senate primary because there was a rising tide against Dick Lugar and it showed in the final primary results. There is no such tide in 8th District against Larry Bucshon. I would suggest to Chris Chocola that he spend his time and efforts elsewhere because it would appear that, after leaving Indiana to run “The Club” he doesn’t understand Hoosier voters anymore.
Gillespie is the editor of the blog Hoosier Access .