All pandering, all the time

ALL PANDERING, ALL THE TIME…. Dave Weigel reports this week on a new video that reinforces a larger point about Republicans and their base.

In it, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who was the first GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate to waver on whether or not he could repeal the Affordable Care Act, promises Republicans that he’d be open to repeal if the party wins back the White House.

“You’re not going to be able to repeal this legislation,” says Castle. “Now maybe we could if there’s an election for a new president and you have a couple of elections for Congress. I’d be willing to consider it.”

In the general sense, this is hardly startling — a Republican House member, running for the Senate, telling Republican activists that he’d “consider” repealing the entire Affordable Care Act, just as soon as the GOP is running the entire federal government again.

But consider the context here. Castle has long been one of the least conservative Republicans in Congress. It’s how he managed to become one of Delaware’s most popular political figures. He’s cruising in this year’s Senate race; he isn’t facing a credible primary challenge; and he’s running in a left-leaning state that backed Obama/Biden two years ago with a whopping 61% of the vote.

And yet, Mike Castle still feels compelled to pander to right-wing voters. Even in Tennessee, Sen. Bob Corker (R) was willing to say about repeal, “The fact is that’s not going to happen, OK?”

Castle, the so-called moderate, actually managed to take a more conservative line than the Tennessee Republican.

To be sure, Castle is heavily favored to win the Senate contest. When sizing up the midterms, it’s practically considered a sure-thing. Maybe it’s why the GOP congressman doesn’t mind pandering — he feels like the race in the bag, and he won’t be punished by Delaware voters anyway.

But it’s the kind of campaign dynamic that Dems, in theory, could capitalize on. I can see the ads now: “Mike Castle says he’s a moderate, but he admits he’d consider repealing health care protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Castle is open to taking away health coverage away from 32 million middle-class Americans. Castle acknowledged he, if elected, might take away tax breaks for millions of small businesses….”