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Republican Insiders Starting to Fret About 2014 Primary Battles

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Capito announced her Senate bid last week, news that has already met resistance from some conservative groups.

“Clearly, that model doesn’t work,” Keller said. “We don’t really factor in whining from the same big-government Republican crowd that wanted Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio [in Florida] and Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey [in Pennsylvania].”

But after the performances of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin and Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock this fall, many in the establishment have lost patience with conservative activists who are intent on monopolizing the process.

Privately, many Republicans have expressed emotions ranging from annoyance to hopelessness to unmitigated rage at the tea party groups. Much is at stake for them in the new cycle. In CQ Roll Call’s initial Senate race ratings, six races were deemed Tossups, and all are seats currently held by Democrats. Republicans need to net a pickup of six seats in 2014 to capture the majority.

Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC, voiced what many would not say on the record. VIEW PAC is a group that seeks to elect female Republicans to office and has long been supportive of Capito.

“It has been said that these organizations prefer to fight than to win, and it seems this bizarre phenomenon is not only continuing, but becoming even more brazen,” Conway wrote in an opinion piece that she circulated to the press last week. She went on to describe the opposition to Capito as “a disgrace.”

But not all Republicans are worried — at least not in West Virginia. Capito’s father, Arch Moore, is a former three-term governor, and the congresswoman has money, organization and a brand.

“The panic is unfounded,” one GOP operative familiar with the Mountain State’s politics said. “Sure you’d prefer not to have the right wing try and do this, but I think West Virginia is pretty immune to all the tea party stuff.”

He pointed out that the fiscal conservatism of these outside groups does not play well in the poor state with a heavily elderly population reliant on Social Security and Medicare. The primary reason he is not worried was that there is little tea party organization in the state and no obvious candidate. But he fears that Capito might have to fight through a tough primary, only to emerge weaker and with less money at the beginning of the general election campaign.

Capito’s fellow Republican in the delegation, Rep. David B. McKinley, has not ruled out a run. But the more likely threat is wealthy GOP businessman John Raese. He has run statewide multiple times and lost, but he can self-finance another bid.

“If Raese wants to run, no one will be able to talk him out of it,” the GOP operative said.

An earlier version of this article did not clearly reflect the relationship of Sen. Jim DeMint with the Senate Conservatives Fund. He founded the super PAC but does not have a role with it currently.

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