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For its part, the establishment is talking tough so far, viewing a fight as the “best chance for growing the GOP.”
“Escalating the argument with the right on carefully selected issues and not retreating,” a party strategist calculates, is an opportunity to rebrand the party and win independents back.
A prominent national Republican fundraiser warned the right against its risks of “fighting on an island by itself with no legitimate shot at moving their agenda.” Kurt Bills won the nomination but found himself abandoned by many independents, by some Republicans and by traditional Party donors — he raised less than $1 million compared with Klobuchar’s $7.7 million. A leader in the Minnesota business community swore off “standing next to another candidate who’s not immediately credible to independent voters.”
The left often assumes that grass-roots organizing favors its agenda and candidates. But the Liberty Movement and Tea Party originate in local organizing. While progressives may cheer the attacks on the right, the resurgent Republican establishment is peddling political remedies — from using the power of money to reining in populist control over nominations — that may threaten the left’s own grass-roots strategies if Democratic elites mimic them.
Lawrence R. Jacobs is director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.