It’s a whole new show of hospitality this cycle at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is making every effort to appear neutral in GOP primaries this year — and in some cases rolling out the red carpet to tea party candidates to demonstrate its neutrality in races.
During the last cycle, the committee supported — either informally or formally — certain candidates in primaries, only to watch many of them lose to tea-party-backed underdog opponents in the Nevada, Colorado, Kentucky and Delaware Senate races.
NRSC Chairman John Cornyn has made it clear that he will not let this happen again, proclaiming to his colleagues last December that the NRSC would stay out of primaries. But with the Senate recruitment season in full swing, the NRSC is already showing its hospitality to non-traditional candidates: No contender is too much of a long shot, and no race is too insignificant to get assistance.
“Last cycle, a lot of candidates felt snubbed by them. This time, they’re meeting with everyone,” one D.C.-based GOP operative said. “They know that if they don’t meet with everybody, it will look like they’re playing favorites.”
For example, NRSC officials invited long-shot Virginia Senate candidate and tea party activist Jamie Radtke over for a meeting with Cornyn. Radtke and ex-Sen. George Allen (Va.), a former NRSC chairman, are running in the GOP primary.
“I thought it was a very positive meeting,” Radtke told Roll Call. “They had extended the invitation to come up and meet with Sen. Cornyn. He just wanted to make sure I knew what services were made available at the NRSC. ... He made it clear that they would not be weighing in on the primary.”
NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said it has been the committee’s long-standing policy to meet with potential challengers — no matter the caliber of their candidacy.
“Just like last cycle, we are happy to sit down with anyone who is interested in running against one of the many vulnerable Democratic incumbents,” Walsh said. “We’re going to continue to work hard, and we’ll let Republican primary voters choose the nominees, and do whatever we can to help those nominees win in November.”
But last cycle, some individual tea-party-backed candidates complained publicly about their treatment from the NRSC. This time around, several underdog candidates described nothing but warmth and accessibility from Cornyn and his committee.