NRCC Opens Door to Playing in Primaries

Posted March 9, 2009 at 6:35pm

The National Republican Congressional Committee is leaving the door wide open when it comes to getting involved in party primaries in the 2010 cycle, a committee spokesman said Monday.

“There is no official position. It will be addressed on a case-by-case basis,— NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said when asked about the committee’s policy on involvement in primaries, including those with incumbents.

Under the leadership of Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), the committee could wade into any GOP primary involving either Members, challengers or open-seat candidates in the 2010 cycle — which represents a change from the previous cycle when then-Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) was criticized for taking a largely hands-off approach in open-seat primaries.

Cole bore the brunt of the criticism for allowing expensive and bruising GOP primaries to play out on their own after a handful of special election primaries produced nominees who were fatally flawed and unable to win the general election.

The NRCC also began to signal last cycle that it is not prepared to automatically back every incumbent for re-election, as has been traditionally the practice. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) won re-election last year after overcoming a competitive primary challenge and receiving little assistance from the national party.

With a Conference of just 178 Members, Republican operatives are again privately signaling that incumbents who are flawed or not aggressive enough in preparing for their re-election races may be left in the cold in order for the party to have the strongest possible nominee.

Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho), who lost his race in an overwhelmingly Republican state last year because he was out-hustled on the financial and campaign fronts, has been held up as a prime example of a situation that GOP leaders will not allow to be repeated in 2010.