But the NRSC raised $14.2 million in October, aided by sizable Member transfers from GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.); Tom Coburn (Okla.); Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and John McCain (Ariz.). It was the NRSC’s best month since the 2002 enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
In fact, Cornyn singled them out in emphasizing the need for increased participation from his Conference in fundraising over the next two years.
“We need all of our Members engaged,” Cornyn said. “They call it a committee for a reason.”
Still, Cornyn’s biggest challenge in his second term as NRSC chairman could be resolving intraparty conflicts over recruits. This past cycle, very public spats developed between Cornyn and Senate Republican leaders on one side and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and conservative tea party activists on the other. They clashed in GOP primaries in several states, including Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Nevada and New Hampshire.
Within this group of states, only in New Hampshire did Cornyn’s recruit win the primary over the candidate backed by DeMint and the tea party. But in each case except for Delaware, the NRSC vigorously supported the party’s nominee in the general election, although the committee did invest around $100,000 in the First State. In Florida and Kentucky, the Republicans were successful in the general election; in Colorado, Delaware and Nevada, they were not.
The NRSC chairman said he appreciates the push for conservative nominees. But he said he was often mystified as to why conservatives he recruited to run for the Senate in 2010 were rejected by DeMint and tea party activists. In particular, Cornyn cited Ayotte, the New Hampshire Republican whom he described as among the most fiscally and socially conservative candidates to run this year.
Cornyn said the rejection of Ayotte, and some of his other recruits, was not always “based on empirical information, but on perception.” The NRSC chairman also made clear he would like to see the Republican Conference unified behind each of the GOP incumbents up for re-election in 2012, including Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).
All face potential primaries from the right for voting records deemed too moderate by some conservative activists.
“I’d like to spend all of my time and attention on offense,” Cornyn said. “I hope this is something we can discuss next week and get some clarification. It’s better when we’re not in a circular firing squad. ... The ultimate goal is to win.”