Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Moderate Schwarz loses in Michigan

Demonstrating why moderates need to get more involved in their local parties, incumbent Rep. Joe Schwarz, a moderate Republican in Michigan, lost his primary race yesterday.

Rep. Joe Schwarz's re-election campaign turned into a clash of Republican titans: moderates versus conservatives, President Bush and John McCain versus the Club for Growth, and abortion rights versus right-to-life groups.

Schwarz lost and the conservative movement won. Republican Tim Walberg will be heavily favored to succeed the moderate in Congress, but the implications could reach far beyond the borders of the rural southern Michigan district.

Schwarz had the endorsement of people from both the left and the right, including Bush, McCain and even the NRA. And he still lost.

This is less momentous than it seems, because the district is conservative and the only reason Schwarz won in the previous go-round is that four conservative candidates split the vote; Schwarz won that primary with just 28 percent of the vote. So it was almost inevitable that a conservative candidate would eventually emerge to take the seat.

But it was the clearest defeat for a moderate in yesterday's primary races. As the man himself says:

"I look at this election as probably a victory for right to life, anti-abortion, anti-embryonic stem cell groups but it's a net loss for the Republican party because it just pushes the party farther to the right," Schwarz said.

If the Lieberman race was a referendum on the face of the Democratic Party, could this be a referendum on the face of the Republicans? I think the answer is "no" in both cases, but those who wish to make the case for the former should apply the same logic to the latter.

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