NRSC to steer clear of primaries

NRSC TO STEER CLEAR OF PRIMARIES…. The National Republican Senatorial Committee likes to intervene in primary fights, for fairly obvious reasons — the party establishment routinely has a favored candidate that it thinks has the best shot of winning the election. Naturally, then, the NRSC steers support to the Republican it perceives as stronger.

The problem, of course, is that the Republican base doesn’t want the NRSC to intervene — the establishment may want an “electable” candidate, but activists want their candidate. And after the unpleasantness in New York’s 23rd, the base is making the demands more explicit — don’t intervene … or else.

Today, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the base what it wanted to hear.

With Republicans grappling with the fallout of an intra-party battle that may have cost them a House seat, the head of the Senate Republican campaign effort is making a pledge that may ease some of the anger being directed at the party establishment.

“We will not spend money in a contested primary,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC News in a telephone interview today.

“There’s no incentive for us to weigh in,” said Cornyn, R-Texas. “We have to look at our resources. . . . We’re not going to throw money into a [primary] race leading up to the election.”

Cornyn said his pledge extends to races for open Senate seats — not incumbents who may face primaries next year. The NRSC so far has endorsed candidates in four open Senate seats — Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

This is a pretty important development for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that the party establishment seems to be afraid of its own base. Today’s announcement seems to be a message to the inmates: “Don’t worry, you’ll now have more control over the asylum.”

Second, the NRSC’s neutrality in primaries may have real practical implications. In Florida, for example, party leaders see Gov. Charlie Crist (R) as a shoo-in on Election Day, but right-wing activists prefer state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R). In California, the party has high hopes for Carly Fiorina’s (R) Senate campaign, but the base prefers far-right state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R).

That Cornyn is just voluntarily giving up some of his power — a year before the election — because he’s afraid of the Tea Party/Fox News/Palin crowd, is pretty remarkable.