“Their priority is to invariably go with any conservative, anti-gay, pro-life Republican they can find,” the former lawmaker said. “It may be because that’s how they build their coalitions, but they are far from a socially moderate group. They endorse how the Christian coalition groups do.”
Mr. Chocola said it’s “OK” to lose some elections. “We don’t really keep a won-loss record. It’s not our measurement of success,” he said.
And Club for Growth endorsements often have a positive “ripple effect,” he said, citing Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s increasingly conservative voting record since fellow Utah Republican Robert F. Bennett, who the Club for Growth opposed as too moderate, lost his Senate seat to a conservative Republican challenger two years ago.
But moral victories are meaningless in politics, GOP insiders say.
“If you want to have a Republican majority, then you have to allow for some Republicans to be a little more moderate than others. You have to let the elected official match the state or district, and these guys don’t see it that way. That’s what’s frustrating,” the GOP strategist said.
Former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising and recruiting arm of House Republicans for four years, said the Club for Growth’s attacks on House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a moderate Michigan Republican, are potentially destructive to the party.
“These attacks against Fred Upton could cost Republicans the House,” he said. “He’s a great team player and a prolific fundraiser for the party who is instrumental in bringing in money for [other candidates] who can’t rub two nickels together.”
Grover Norquist, founder and president of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform, another fiscally conservative and influential group sometimes criticized by Republican insiders as too extreme, said it would be wrong to characterize the Club for Growth as a radical outfit that hurts the party.
“Their strategy is completely correct: Nominate the most Reaganite guy who can win in the primary and win in the general,” he said. “And that’s different in different states. You’ve got to grade on a curve.”