Steele to GOP candidates in VA-5: “What’s your goal?”
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a message for the large crop of Republican candidates, vying for the chance to take on Rep. Tom Perriello in Virginia’s 5th District. If the goal of your campaign is anything other than taking back the seat, find something else to do. Steele told me today that he is not worried that Republicans will divide themselves and miss an opportunity in the 5th district. He said he is looking forward to a “healthy primary” and the party is ready to get behind the eventual winner, but not a minute before voters go to the polls.
Republicans decided to go the route of a traditional primary to choose their candidate, instead of a so-called “firehouse primary” or convention. It’s a move that is widely considered to favor Sen. Robert Hurt. The choice did anger some of the other lesser known candidates, including the unconventional Bradley Rees. (Rees has asked reporters to label him “Malcontent“) Rees enjoys strong support among the Tea Party activists and has already waged an aggressive internet campaign. As the Washington-Post’s Amy Gardner reported, Rees tweeted that a third party run could be in the offing, declaring that “Civil War is upon us.” Rees has actually abandoned efforts to gain the Republican nomination.
Steele did not discuss Rees specifically but said he was willing to “look any Republican in the eye and ask them one question: ‘What’s your goal’? Is your goal to claim victory in a primary or claim victory in the general election? ”
Here is the full clip where he discusses a potential third party run:
The RNC Chairman said that elections should not be used as a platform to get across an agenda. He said in 2010 the support and input the national committee will provide, will be based one goal.
“Take back the seat,” said Steele. “If that is your goal, than we will be okay. If you have another agenda, I’m asking you not to play because the stakes are too high for the people of American and the people of the 5th District to let that seat stay in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.”
Here is the full clip on the RNC’s role in the Republican primary:
Steele and the Republicans have already been burned by rogue candidates that put their ideological goals ahead of the party’s electoral interests. In New York’s 23rd District, unhappy conservatives broke ranks with the party’s choice and got behind a third-party candidate. It was a special election, and many of the issues in that race won’t apply in VA-5, but it remains a lingering concern for the GOP, hoping to seize upon discontent with Washington Democrats and the momentum of big wins here in Virginia and in New Jersey in 2009.
As for Bradley Rees, he did not seem all that concerned about what the Republican National Committee Chairman thinks about his potential third rail candidacy. Rees emailed me a response to Steele’s remarks and wrote that based on his comments the Chairman is “yet another member of the GOP establishment that simply does not fully understand what is happening in the grassroots.” Rees said that the election of the Republican candidate in the general election is “not even a close second” in terms of his priorities for the upcoming election. A position that would put him in direct odds with the National Chairman.
Rees did say that there are “others” currently in the race who he would feel comfortable supporting in the general election. (He would not say which ones) However, he said that while it is his desire not to run that doesn’t mean he will be sitting on the sidelines. Rees said he is prepared to run on a third-party line in an effort to prove to a point to party leaders. “The reason I am strongly considering a 3rd party run (wholly dependent on the primary’s outcome) is to make sure the GOP establishment knows that conservatives (some registered as Rs, some as Ds, and some not registered at all) are going to hold them accountable,” he said.
While the level of Rees’ support is highly debatable. He is proposing a nightmare scenario that party leaders are hoping at all costs to avoid. If this race continues in the same trajectory it seems almost a necessity that the eventual Republican nominee secure his or her base, before hoping to knock out the freshman incumbent Democrat.