Challengers Beware: NRSC Exists to Reelect Incumbents

Photo Credit: APWhen Liz Cheney announced this week that she would challenge Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi in a Republican primary next year, the national party coalesced swiftly and unequivocally behind Enzi.

“The primary responsibility of the Senate campaign committee is to make certain that Republican incumbents are re-elected,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said after Cheney’s announcement. “We’ll do everything we can to make certain that Mike Enzi has the help and support he needs from us.”

On the House side, however, there is no such institutional obligation to protect incumbents financially.

For House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., that hands-off policy could have deeply personal repercussions: Lucas is one of 10 House Republicans being targeted by the powerful conservative group Club For Growth, which hopes to replace moderate GOP members of Congress with more conservative candidates.

The NRCC won’t spend money to counter the influence of the Club and other outside groups in safe GOP districts — a policy that makes sense, Lucas said, because Republicans have limited money for the election cycle. Besides, he said, the party should not need to force its favored candidates on voters.

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