From my observation of Indiana's Republican primary for US Senate, I believe that the strategy to get a conservative candidate elected boils down to three steps. These three steps are driven by the candidate:
- Get the backing of the party
- Get the backing of the grassroots
- Get the backing of well funded PACs (FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, etc.)
Richard Mourdock accomplished step 1 when he announced his candidacy in February of 2011. Over 70% of Indiana's Republican county chairmen endorsed Mourdock's bid for US Senate when he announced. Winning the support of the grassroots is step 2 and Fettig's book--Tea Party on Safari--details what happened in Indiana. It's a messy, almost ungovernable process fraught with treachery and ankle-biting time wasters. If the grassroots can coalesce around a particular candidate, then the money to push that candidate across the finish line should be available from PACs--step 3. In Mourdock's case, steps 1 and 2 effectively cleared the field so that the race was always Lugar v Mourdock. Lugar couldn't ignore the competition as Roy Blunt did in Missouri when he ran for Senate in 2010.
With those steps in mind, here are my observations about a couple of the primary races decided this past Tuesday here in Missouri.
In the governor's race, Bill Randles had overwhelming support from the grassroots, but he never really had the backing of the party. As a result, his campaign never attracted the money it needed to boost Randles name recognition with radio and television ads. Fred Sauer's entrance into the race split the vote ensuring that Dave Spence would win and that neither Randles or Sauer had a serious chance in the primary.
The Republican primary for US Senate in Missouri was fascinating to watch. None of the candidates really had the backing of the party, though I think Akin probably scored better on that than either Steelman or Brunner. Steelman is a bit of a pariah among some Republicans who blame her for damaging Kenny Holshof in the 2008 Republican primary for Governor resulting in his defeat later that year. Akin had much better grassroots support than either of his competitors. Steelman was able to win some key endorsements including Sarah Palin; however, they didn't translate into the sort of primary spending she needed to pull out a win.