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Grant Bosse: GOP keeps picking the wrong path

June 18. 2018 8:41PM

Back in September, I wrote a column arguing that Republicans were at a crossroads.

In choosing their party’s nominees for three winnable U.S. Senate races, GOP primary voters would decide what their party stands for.

To paraphrase the ancient knight at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “They chose ... poorly.”

In Alabama, Republicans nominated the disgraced and disgraceful Roy Moore instead of Sen. Luther Strange, who had been appointed to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated seat.

Strange had some baggage, having been appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley as Bentley was being chased from office by a sex scandal. But Moore had twice been removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for his reckless disregard for the rule of law.

Once Moore secured the nomination, he faced allegations that he had spent his 30s creeping around teenage girls. He went on to lose one of the safest Republican Senate seats in the country to Democrat Doug Jones.

In Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake won’t even make it to the primary. Flake has been one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, igniting a feud with the touchy commander in chief. In October, Flake announced his retirement.

Since then, Flake has become even more outspoken, decrying the direction of the Republican Party as self-described conservatives sacrifice their principles at the Altar of Trump. Frankly, his admonitions would carry more weight if he were willing to fight to stay in the Senate.

Flake has been a consistent conservative vote in the U.S. House and Senate. He would likely have won a general election, if he could have held onto the Republican nomination.

Rep. Martha McSally is the GOP’s best chance to hold the seat. Former state Sen. Kelli Ward is hoping to ride the Trump Train to the nomination, though former county sheriff Joe Arpaio, with a Trump pardon in his pocket, may peel off some of the MAGA vote.

Last week in Virginia, Republican primary voters surrendered a chance of picking up a Senate seat. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine threw his moderate credentials on the bonfire as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, abandoning long-held pro-life positions, and embracing all of Clinton’s radicalism.

Instead of giving Kaine a real challenger, Virginia Republicans nominated Corey Stewart, a shallow opportunist from Duluth, Minn., who sought the state’s gubernatorial nomination last year on a platform of defending Confederate statues.

Stewart has played footsie with the Alt-Right grifters behind the Charlottesville protests, and has positioned himself as a vessel for the frustration Republican voters have with the Republican Party.

I understand that frustration, but channeling it through a clown like Stewart is short-sighted, spiteful, and self-defeating. His gimmick isn’t even that convincing. His supporters have had to put some effort into ignoring Stewart’s opportunistic past.

In nominating Stewart to run a futile campaign against Kaine, grassroots Republicans did send a message to the GOP establishment. They said they are more interested in throwing temper tantrums than in winning elections.

Republicans across the country will now be asked to answer for Stewart, the Todd Akin of 2018.

Parties decide what they are when they pick their candidates. I don’t get worked up over platform fights within the Republican and Democratic state committees, because platforms don’t matter all that much. The people who care about them are dedicated partisans, not persuadable, undecided voters. The real platform is built from the issues that a party’s candidates run on.

With the filing period closed, New Hampshire voters have a choice about the direction of their parties. They will pick which way to go when they pick their nominees on Sept. 11.

Grant Bosse is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @grantbosse.

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