R.I.P Joe Schwarz

R.I.P. JOE SCHWARZ….A reader just reminded me of something that’s already been noted on several other blogs, but not here: namely that three incumbents lost last night. The third was Joe Schwarz, a freshman Republican from Battle Creek, Michigan:

Schwarz was endorsed by President Bush, Dick Cheney, the Michigan Republican Party and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. The NRA sent out a mailing telling district voters that it gave Schwarz an “A” rating. Newt Gingrich did a fundraiser for him.

Wait, it gets better. Schwarz is a former Navy officer and CIA agent in Laos. He is also a medical doctor who still has a practice in Battle Creek. He was a state senator for 16 years who earned a reputation for knowing his stuff on education and for saving jobs in his district.

He was swamped, 55% to 45%, by Tim Walberg, a fundamentalist preacher. Walberg also used to be a state senator, and was known for his ineffectiveness. But he had Michigan Right to Life and the Club for Growth on his side, and he called Schwarz ? the Dick Cheney-endorsed former CIA operative ? a “liberal.”

I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this. A congressman isn’t a senator, and Schwarz had only served one term. Still, he was a moderate Republican incumbent in a moderate district and he got womped by an extreme conservative.

Of course, this kind of thing happens all the time. The Club for Growth has made a career out of ambushing moderate Republicans, as have plenty of other far-right activist groups. Two years ago they nearly defeated Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, and he had more seniority in the Senate than Lieberman.

For some reason, though, getting challenged by a shrill, single-minded interest group seems like business as usual, barely worthy of comment. Conversely, getting challenged by a broad-based coalition of bloggers and local activists with no single issue to unite them is somehow scary and new, a sign of an electoral apocalypse. Not sure why, though. If the Club for Growth doesn’t scare you, why would a bunch of bloggers? Just because they use profanity a little more casually than the button-down radicals?