Jim DeMint leaving the Senate to head Heritage Foundation

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC)


South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. DeMint will leave his post as South Carolina’s junior senator in early January to take control of the Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of about $80 million.

Sen. DeMint’s departure means that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, will name a successor, who will have to run in a special election in 2014. In that year, both Mr. DeMint’s replacement and Sen. Lindsey Graham will be running for reelection in South Carolina.

DeMint says he sees the Heritage job as a chance to build the conservative movement. That has been a role he’s taken while in the Senate, of course, and in the wake of his party’s failures in the 2012 elections it makes some sense he might want to devote more time to that effort.

Losing House races is great practice for winning House races

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster

One-time loser, now Congresswoman-elect Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02)

Democrats are aggressively preparing for the 2014 House elections. Not only do they need 17 seats to retake the House, but the party holding the White House in its sixth year has lost seats in every election going back to 1918, and averages a loss of 30 seats.

So it’ll be challenging, to say the least. But as Democrats discuss their strategy to defy history—which includes re-recruiting candidates who did well but still lost in 2012—the Republican response is quite bizarre:

Republicans argue that Democrats are going down the wrong path in trying to field candidates like Demings, a former Orlando police chief, and Mullen, an Army veteran and political neophyte, saying they have yet to demonstrate they can win a high-profile congressional race.

“If voters are looking for a reincarnation of something from the past, they’re better off watching the new ‘Dallas,’” said Andrea Bozek, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman.

What a weird, odd thing to say. Here’s a list of Democrats elected in 2012 who have lost previous Congressional races:

AZ-01, Ann Kirkpatrick. Third race (won in 2008, lost in 2010).
CA-07, Ami Bera. Second race (lost in 2010).
CA-41, Mark Takano. Third race (lost in 1992 & 1994).
FL-09, Alan Grayson. Fourth race (lost primary in 2006, won in 2008, lost in 2010).
FL-26, Joe Garcia. Third race (lost in 2008 & 2010).
IL-08, Tammy Duckworth. Second race (lost in 2006).
IL-11, Bill Foster. Fourth race (won special & general in 2008, lost in 2010).
MN-08, Rick Nolan. Fifth race (lost in 1972, won in 1974, 1976 & 1978).
NV-03, Dina Titus. Third race (won in 2008, lost in 2010).
NH-01, Carol Shea-Porter. Fourth race (won in 2006 & 2008, lost in 2010).
NH-02, Ann McLane Kuster. Second race (lost in 2010).
NY-24, Dan Maffei. Fourth race (lost in 2006, won in 2008, lost in 2010).
WA-10, Denny Heck. Second race (lost in 2010).

Indeed, of the 47 new incoming House Democrats, 13 of them (or 28 percent) have previous experience running for Congress. It makes sense—challengers are at a big disadvantage against incumbent congresscritters. They don’t have the name ID, or the fundraising connections, or general experience avoiding campaign mistakes. Practice makes perfect, and there’s no better way to get better at running for Congress than running for Congress.

And of course, if losing a Congressional campaign was the end of everyone’s political careers, then we wouldn’t have a President Barack Obama, who got crushed 2-1 (62-31) in a 2000 primary against Rep. Bobby Rush in the Illinois 1st Congressional District.

1:52 PM PT (David Nir): Chas 981 adds one more: WA-01, Suzan DelBene (lost in 2010).

Saxby Chambliss says Grover Norquist is not the boss of him

Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist's control is slipping

Grover Norquist’s hold on congressional Republicans continues to weaken, with Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss saying he’d defy Norquist on taxes, despite expecting to draw a primary challenge as a result:

“I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Chambliss, who signed Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” when he first ran for Senate. “If we do it his way, then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with him about that.”

Let’s be clear-eyed about Chambliss’s motivations, though. While he talks about the Norquist-backed primary challenge that might result from supporting some tiny amount of added taxes on the very wealthy, the general election has to factor in his thinking as well. After all, in 2008, Democratic challenger Jim Martin forced the race to a run-off when Chambliss failed to get a majority of votes cast on election day. While Chambliss should have an easier time in a midterm election, his brave statements about primary challenges should be viewed with that general election scare in mind.

But the fact that saying no to Norquist has become an appealing way to declare (limited) political independence shows how much the battle over taxes on the wealthy favors Democrats. Now if Democrats in Congress will just stand their ground…

Reince Priebus likely to be RNC chair again, despite all the losing

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana June 18, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Despite his party’s losses under his leadership, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus has decided to stick around for a second two-year term. In a message to the RNC’s 168 state chairs and committee members, Priebus made a show of force—”I am humbled by the over 130 RNC Members who I have talked to who have pledged their support and public endorsement for me”—and implicitly pointed a finger at Michael Steele:

“The RNC was over $22 million in debt with almost no cash on hand; much of our donor base lost confidence and stopped contributing to the RNC,” he wrote.

But Priebus made no mention of the sweeping GOP victories that preceded his tenure and referred only obliquely to the party’s disappointing election earlier this month. […]

He touted the RNC’s get-out-the-vote-effort, calling it “the strongest in history,” but made no mention of Mitt Romney’s loss or the party’s Senate defeats.

If the RNC’s GOTV was the strongest in history, and not just the strongest in the history of the RNC (itself a dubious claim), then Priebus managed to kick off his own reelection effort by making President Barack Obama’s reelection look even more impressive than it already did. As for Michael Steele, he’s already had something to say about the comparison between himself and Priebus as RNC chairs:

“What was the mess I left behind?” Steele said Monday in response to a question from The Daily Caller during a conference call organized by his firm. “Winning.”

Maybe Priebus is looking for redemption in 2014. Maybe he’s just drunk with the power of leading the party of Todd Akin and Allen West. Maybe he’s hoping that two years from now, the Harry Potter books will have faded enough from memory that people will no longer be pointing out that “Reince Priebus” totally sounds like it should be a Death Eater’s name. But whatever the case, here’s to him being no more successful in 2014 than he was in 2012.