- - Thursday, May 29, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Republicans, as the national news media are only so happy to tell us, are having some pretty fierce internal primary battles this year.

And that’s a good thing.


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The media narrative is that the GOP “establishment” is at war with the tea party, but I don’t see it that way at all. Yes, there have been some fights and a few nasty campaigns, and there clearly are some who think — or hope — that it’s going to split the party in November. My view is that this is the one of the most exciting primary seasons I’ve seen in some 30-odd years in politics, and that it’s the sign of a party that is on the move and growing.

I have in fact never seen the Republican Party as a whole so excited, so energized, so motivated as it is right now. People are coming out and participating. That has a lot to do with the fact that the American people have seen the consequences of government by the left and by the Obama administration, and they don’t like it. I’m seeing all kinds of people who were never involved in politics before stepping up, not just tea party activists, but people who are signing up with the tea party, with the Republican Party and with conservative causes dedicated to reversing this country’s political drift to the left.

I see pastors becoming active in ways they never did before, getting their congregations involved and making sure people are registered to vote. These primary battles are a sign of political strength, not weakness; that’s why you’re seeing far fewer such battles on the Democratic side. The lack of energizing primary contests is actually taking a toll on them.


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And the GOP primary battles to date have produced strong leaders and candidates, men and women of faith and a burning desire to protect the Constitution, figures who can both promote conservative causes and win in November.

Look at some of the battleground Senate states. In Georgia, you’ve got former Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue in the runoff, both extremely attractive candidates for that state. In North Carolina, the primary winner was state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has led an incredible conservative revival in Raleigh. The same could be said of Rep. Bill Cassidy in Louisiana and Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas. In all four races, Republican primary voters have settled on the strongest candidates to challenge for open seats or to take on very vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

And if these primary fights are splitting the party, it’s hard to find any evidence in the polls. Forget for now President Obama’s historically bad approval ratings (although voters won’t be forgetting that on Election Day). Just look instead at how the GOP is doing on what pollsters call the “generic” ballot, where voters are simply asked if they prefer to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate.

As you might know, I had a little role in the great 1994 GOP wave election where our party scored historic gains to claim a House majority. What you might not know is that on the generic ballot that year, the pollsters actually had us trailing the Democrats by 3 percentage points. There was another big Republican midterm gain four years ago, and that year the generic ballot was supposedly a dead heat. The polls consistently understate the GOP vote.

Right now, however, the generic ballot is showing a 9-point spread in favor of the Republican candidate. That basically suggests that every Republican running in even a marginally competitive race is going to win. The polls also show a huge enthusiasm gap, with Republican voters saying they are far more motivated to go to the polls this year than Democrats. Look at this week’s primary in my home state of Texas — 700,000 Republicans voted, compared to just 200,000 Democrats.

Best of all, this year we’re not seeing a top-down reform for the GOP. It’s Republican voters themselves who are rising up and forcing the party to get in shape and stand by its principles, something the national party hasn’t always done in the past. They’re building a party that is going to be extremely strong and focused going into the election. And if President Obama doesn’t do anything to energize his own dispirited base, the victory margin is going to be amazing.

If that’s what comes from “divisive” primaries and “party infighting,” by all means let’s have a lot more of the same through November.

Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.