Pat Toomey: How A Smart Conservative Appeals To Moderates

There is a difference between ideology and politics. It’s easy for talk radio hosts, bloggers, and columnists (including me) to talk about what needs to be done. Our audiences tend to be made up of like minded people and we don’t have to worry about moderates who barely know who the Vice-President is or which party is anti-abortion, costing us our jobs. Politicians, at least the ones that aren’t in heavily gerrymandered districts, don’t have that luxury.

So, that brings us to generalized strategies for appealing to moderates.

Democrats in Congress tend to promise to be moderate, but then throw all those promises out the window to appeal to their base.

On the other hand, Republicans tend to promise to be conservative, but then throw all those promises out the window after being spooked by the mainstream media or polling data.

Then there are squishy Republicans who believe that the party should promise to be moderate and then just be moderate, foregoing our principles.

The current Republican approach played a big role in the GOP’s defeat in the last two elections, the Democratic model is too sleazy and dishonest, and the squish model is a political loser for Republicans except in blue states.

So, what should Republicans be doing?

They should be following the example being set by Pat Toomey. Although there is no guarantee he will win in Pennsylvania next year, Pat Toomey is running an excellent campaign for Arlen Specter’s Senate seat — and he’s proving that he’s a smart political operator.

Who is Pat Toomey? He’s the ex-head of the Club for Growth, which means he’s a fiscal conservative’s fiscal conservative. He’s anti-amnesty, anti-bailout, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment — let’s just say that this is a man who has tremendous credibility with conservatives. If you’re a conservative, Pat Toomey is EXACTLY the kind of guy you want in the Senate.

Still, in a middle-of-the-road to slightly left-leaning state like Pennsylvania, a fire breathing right-wing ideologue doesn’t play well. When the people of Pennsylvania came to the conclusion that Rick Santorum was that sort of fellow, they rejected him. Santorum started his campaign for his Senate seat in 2008 in a deep hole and despite dropping over 20 million dollars, he finished in a deep hole.

So, how does a guy like Pat Toomey reach out to the moderates he needs to win? Simple: he compromises, but he does it in a smart way. To some people, compromise is a dirty word. However, it’s part of politics. If you want to win and get anything done, you have to compromise. Now, here’s the key thing: what are you compromising on?

The problem with too many Republicans in the Senate is that they compromise on issues near and dear to conservative hearts while throwing us bones on things that don’t matter all that much. Toomey, to his credit is taking the opposite approach.

For example, Toomey made some waves by noting that he would vote to put Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court. He also had nice things to say about Obama’s school speech:

Meanwhile, Pat Toomey, the conservative Republican running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, praised Obama’s address as “an inspiring and moving speech for students across America.”

“The president’s emphasis on responsibility and the personal stories about his own education are exactly the kind of inspiring messages our children need to hear from our country’s leaders,” Toomey said.

Some people reading this are no doubt appalled by the positions that Toomey took. However, the reality is that Sotomayor was going to pass and Obama’s speech, despite all the hubbub over it, was very vanilla (Incidentally, I told people beforehand that they were overreacting).

So, what it comes down is this: Toomey is rock solid on the things that really matter to conservatives, but he’s willing to give ground on issues that aren’t as important to the Right.

This makes him appear principled, yet reasonable. It secures his Right flank, yet lets him reach out to moderates. It’s just smart politics and if more Republicans in Congress understood that, the GOP wouldn’t be in the fix it’s in today.

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