No Longer Revolutionaries, GOP House Candidates Still Get Conservative Stamp of Approval

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Top conservative groups and activists most closely watching the House races this year are pleased with the field of conservative candidates and hopeful for victory.

"I think we've got a lot of good conservative candidates," said Steve Moore, president of Club for Growth, a membership organization that is working to elect "pro-growth, pro-freedom" candidates through political contributions and issue advocacy campaigns. Among the Club's founders is L. Brent Bozell, who also founded in 1998.

"I think they're running on our issues [and] they're realizing this is a political winner, not a political loser," said Moore. "We've got 15 candidates we've helped, and they're all rock-solid Reagan supply-siders," he continued. "Some of the Republicans are running away from our issues, but the ones who are really doing well are the ones who are running on our issues," Moore observed.

Moore predicts 11 victories out of the 15 races Club for Growth is supporting

Paul Weyrich, President of the Free Congress Foundation, agreed with Moore's assessment. "The vast majority of the candidates who are running are running as conservatives," said Weyrich. "There are a couple of districts where you have liberal Republicans running, but I would say 80 percent of the House races where Republicans have a chance to win, they are conservatives," he said.

"If the Republicans maintain control of the House, there will be a shift to the right," he predicted. "A lot of the people who are retiring or running for other offices are more establishment Republicans, and taking their place are, by and large, more movement types [and] in some cases very conservative candidates," Weyrich explained.

Weyrich added that he's less sure that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, but does not have high hopes for conservatism even if they do. "Even if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, there will be no big improvement," said Weyrich, noting that the field of Republican Senate candidates is not conservative. Weyrich predicts a lurch to the left for the Senate.

Neil Bradley, executive director of the Conservative Action Team, shared the enthusiasm of Moore and Weyrich for the field of conservative House candidates this year. CAT is a caucus of House members, whose mission is to advance conservative legislation.

Though Bradley thinks the future of conservatism will largely depend on who wins the presidency, he said of the candidates, "In terms of individual members [of Congress], conservatives are fairly excited about some of the prospects we have in challengers and in some of the open seats who are likely to prevail [Tuesday]. They are good solid fiscal and social conservatives," he said.

Stephanie Mollins, congressional liaison for the Family Research Council, said her socially conservative organization is happy with the conservative showing this year. "In each of the seats that had previously been held by a conservative, those who were recruited to replace [the retiring] conservative also maintain the [incumbent's] values," she said.

Conservatives expressed satisfaction with the issues candidates are running on this election year, but also pointed to a few conservative issues that have fallen by the wayside.

"I think the guys who are doing really well are running on tax cuts, Social Security privatization and school choice," said Moore. "They're not running against big government [or term limits], that's true, but they are running on the growth clusters of issues," he said.

"The tax cut theme is consistent across the board, in many of the campaigns," said Weyrich. Other conservative issues featuring prominently, according to Weyrich, are medical savings accounts and the reform of education and Social Security.

Weyrich said social issues, with some prominent exceptions, are not getting the attention they once did. "The social issues are not as prominent as they were two or three elections ago. For example, the school prayer issue, except in Texas, is all but dead," he said. "Political correctness has so grasped the country," he explained, that candidates are afraid to talk about social issues.

Like Moore, Weyrich criticized the lack of term limit pledges and debate over limiting government this year. "Term limits unfortunately has not caught on this year," said Weyrich. "Practically none of these people have term-limited themselves," he said.

"Thanks to the Republicans themselves in the House, there is no incentives for limiting the size of government," Weyrich continued. "They're not getting that leadership from on high; they're not being told, 'here's how you do that.' Many of them (the candidates) are dependent on the material they get from Washington, both from the party and from the Congressional leadership," he said, "and [the candidates] don't have the ability to generate it themselves."

Mollins said conservative candidates have been hitting on important issues such as the elimination of the marriage penalty, increasing local control of education, and pro-life themes. But "talking about partial birth abortion is not quite as popular," she conceded.

Bradley thinks there aren't as many universal themes this year as there were in 1994, when conservative Republicans won historic majorities in the Senate and House. According to Bradley, conservative candidates are making politics more local this year.

"It's not a flood of conservatives coming in and taking a majority, but you still have a lot of the same type of conservative-type members coming in who share the same fiscal and social positions [as] members who came in with the 104th Congress," Bradley explained.

"In 1994, it was a national election with national themes of balanced budget, term limits and general reform in Washington that were identified in the Contract with America and ran through all the individual races," Bradley continued.

With the exception of broad-based tax relief and Social Security reform, "this year, Republicans are not running a national race [but] individualized, local elections, targeting themes that are important to that district," Bradley said. "For example, in some seats, term limits is still a very big issue, [like] Oklahoma's 2nd district," the open seat being vacated by Tom Coburn, who limited himself to three terms.

Moore pointed to one big disappointment in this election year, namely, the lack of conservative Democratic candidates running on Social Security reform. "The discouraging thing about this election is the extent to which this has become a partisan issue, and I wish that hadn't been the case," said Moore. "I think this is an issue that should cross parties, but the fact that Gore has really dug in his heels has really hurt our chances of getting this done," said Moore.