Photo: Crazy George via Flickr
The Club for Growth — a powerful right-wing group that only supports candidates it deems sufficiently disposed to a fiscally conservative economic agenda and punishes those who aren’t — released the 2013 edition of its congressional scorecard on Monday.
The highly anticipated scorecard grades members of Congress on a 0 to 100 scale, with higher scores indicating greater support for “pro-growth policies.” It is frequently utilized in Republican primaries as evidence of a candidate’s conservative principles — or lack thereof — and its release has become such a political event that The New York Times once described it as “set upon by Republicans like the Oscar nominations list by Hollywood.”
Six members of Congress earned perfect 100 percent scores from the Club for Growth this year — Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), and David Schweikert (R-AZ), and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — but the Club for Growth does not hold all Republicans in such high esteem. Here’s who should be worried about the newly released report card:
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) scored a 56 percent on the Club for Growth’s scale — 11 points below his 67 percent lifetime score — giving him the third lowest score among Senate Republicans.
That result should provide a boost to Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed state senator challenging Cochran from the right in Mississippi’s June primary. McDaniel — who has already spent much of his campaign assailing Cochran for being insufficiently conservative — has been enthusiastically endorsed by the Club for Growth.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) scored a respectable 87 percent on the Club for Growth’s scale — good for 38th place among the 232 House Republicans — but it may still cause problems for him. Kingston is one of three House members running for the Republican nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and according to the Club for Growth, he’s the least conservative of the bunch. Rep. Phil Gingrey scored 93 percent, while Rep. Paul Broun scored 97 percent.
The Georgia primary, which is still wide open, has taken the form of a mad dash to the right. Broun and Gingrey have already hammered Kingston’s insufficiently extreme rhetoric on the Affordable Care Act, and the new scorecard should support their case going forward.
Rep. Steve Stockman’s (R-TX) longshot primary challenge to Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) didn’t receive any help from the Club for Growth’s scorecard. Stockman scored 87 percent — 39th among House Republicans — while the man Stockman has dubbed “Liberal John Cornyn” scored a 93. That ties him for 8th among Senate Republicans, gives him the highest score of any member of the GOP’s congressional leadership, and further undercuts Stockman’s case that Cornyn must be replaced by a “true” conservative.
The Club for Growth has declined to make an endorsement in the Texas primary, which polls suggest Cornyn will dominate.
The lowest-scoring Republican on the Club for Growth’s scorecard is Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), who earned a 37 percent from the conservative group.
Being branded a RINO may not be the worst thing that could happen to Grimm, the only Republican representing New York City in Congress, but it does threaten to further undermine his already shaky standing within the GOP. If a Republican does choose to run a primary challenge to Grimm — who has been plagued by scandal, and earned considerable negative press in January after threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony — then the Club for Growth has provided him or her with a ready-made attack.
Photo: Republican Conference via Flickr
Arguably no one has more reason to worry about the Club for Growth’s 2013 scorecard than the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. Each of the leaders of the House Majority scored near the bottom of their caucus. Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford (R-OK) scored 70 percent, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), scored 68 percent, Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) scored 59 percent, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) scored 53 percent. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who usually does not vote on bills, was not ranked.
These results likely won’t have major electoral ramifications, but they could make it even more difficult for leadership to keep the GOP caucus in line on difficult votes. Several Republican candidates are already doing everything possible to distance themselves from Boehner and his deputies; these new scores will do nothing to change that trend.