Conservatives ask: Will Brownback fracture the base?
Here are today's headlines from the Kansas congressional delegation:
Because you have to have a paid subscription to The New Republic to read its cover story about Sam Brownback, we're not going to link you there.
(We note, however, that an Ohio blog has seen fit to post the entire piece online, but we can't imagine TNR being very happy about that.)
However, we can tell you what others are saying about the article, called "Can Sam Brownback ascend to the presidency?"
Slate's roundup of other magazines describes it thusly: The cover piece examines Sen. Sam Brownback's influence among religious conservatives and speculates about his chances for the presidency. In the 2000 elections, many conservatives chose "pragmatism" over "purity" in nominating George W. Bush. Since then, a perceived lack of success on staple issues like abortion and gay marriage has disappointed his base. Brownback, who entered Congress in 1994 as an anti-government crusader and later converted from evangelical Christianity to Catholicism, may seem like a good alternative to the more moderate Sen. John McCain. "Purity is looking more attractive by the day."
The story has triggered a new round of blogospheric conversation about Brownback among conservatives
Ross Douthat at The American Scene writes: "But of course he's not going to be President, or the Republican nominee, because even if he can get to say, twenty-five percent in the primaries by becoming the official candidate of social conservatives, it's hard to see how he gets to be anything else. ... That said, his poor chances don't mean that he shouldn't run, for the good of the party or something like that, as NR has been arguing. They worry that Brownback "could fracture the conservative base and contribute to the success of a 'half-scale' Republican," which I suppose is fair enough - except that there isn't an obvious "full-scale" Republican in the running at the moment, and it's unclear to me whom they want Brownback to clear the decks for. Romney? Rudy? Gingrich? Duncan Hunter? I can see the case, from NR's point of view, for urging right-wingers to unite against a non-McCain alternative, but I'm damned if I can see an ideal candidate for that role. Ronald Reagan isn't walking through that door - why shouldn't Brownback make a play for it?"
NR, of course, is the conservative National Review, where writer Ramesh Ponnuru offered this response to Douthat, worried that Brownback might peel social conservatives from support of the eventual GOP nominee: "Douthat doesn't think that Brownback can get the nomination. If that's the case, as I believe it is, and if his support is going to come almost entirely from the social Right, which is also almost certainly correct, then it follows that the more successful he is, the less influence the social Right will have on the actual nominee, whoever he is. It is true that none of the candidates is the ideal choice for a social conservative (or any other kind of conservative, I should think). But social conservatives will be better off if McCain, Romney, and Giuliani are trying to court them than writing off large numbers of them as lost to Brownback."
And on Monday, Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty discussed Brownback's chances in an online chat with Lawrence Journal-World readers.
Other links today:
Sen. Sam Brownback (R)
(Baptist Press) FDA HEAD FINALLY APPROVED: Andrew von Eschenbach, President Bush's nominee as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, gained confirmation from the Senate Dec. 6. ... Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., dropped a "hold" he established based on his opposition to the FDA's approval of the abortion drug RU 486, and Sens. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, and David Vitter, R.-La., saw their "holds" for other reasons pushed aside when Frist forced procedural action that brought the nomination to the floor. The Senate voted 80-11 to confirm von Eschenbach, who had served since September 2005 as the FDA's acting commissioner. The procedural vote to place the nomination before the Senate was 89-6. In addition to DeMint, Grassley and Vitter, the senators voting against confirmation were Max Baucus, D.-Mont.; Sam Brownback, R.-Kan.; Mike DeWine, R.-Ohio; James Inhofe, R.-Okla.; Rick Santorum, R.-Pa.; Olympia Snowe, R.-Maine; Jim Talent, R.-Mo., and George Voinovich, R.-Ohio....
Sen. Pat Roberts (R)
(The Hill) Intelligence panel's 'Phase Two' to be completed next year: The three unreleased sections of the Senate Intelligence Committee's controversial "Phase Two" report on the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence are headed for circulation next year, incoming Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told The Hill late last week. "One does not want to spend all one's time looking back, but the history of all this evolution of the war has to be brought to full accountability," Rockefeller said in a Friday interview. Democrats have repeatedly protested the lack of progress on the Phase Two investigation, which was split by outgoing Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to allow some portions to become public before the midterm elections. Democrats pulled the Senate into a rare closed session in November 2005 to revive the inquiry, which began in 2003 with Phase One's look at the intelligence community and was later expanded.