Former Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) appears to be making good on his vows to “crush” the Tea Party.
A longtime ally of Speaker John Boehner, LaTourette is a driving force behind the outside national groups that have spent more than $2 million to help incumbent Republican Congressman Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) stave off Tea Party-backed challenger Bryan Smith in Tuesday’s Republican primary in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District.
LaTourette parlayed huge contributions from labor unions and at least one Native American tribe (the Chickasaw Nation) to build a powerful political operation intervening in primaries on behalf of GOP Establishment candidates.
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by his newly created SuperPAC, Defending Main Street, show that the group, which has received the majority of its $845,000 in contributions since its creation in 2013 from labor unions, has already spent more than $450,000 in its efforts to re-elect Simpson in the Idaho primary. Add to this the enormous sums spent by the Chamber of Commerce and other big business organizations, the amount spent by outside groups in support of Simpson already exceeds $2 million, and could approach $3 million by the time all the expenditures are in.
On his own, Simpson already has a significant financial advantage over Smith. FEC records indicate that his campaign has raised $1.9 million compared to Smith’s $780,000. Though Smith has not been without support from outside national groups (Club for Growth has spent $450,000 in support of his campaign), the final tally is likely to show that the total financial resources to keep Simpson in office will exceed $5 million, while the resources behind Smith will barely clear $1 million.
LaTourette’s Defending Main Street SuperPAC is breaking new ground in the execution of its marketing efforts by re-embracing a campaign tactic in which the Republican establishment last held the upper hand in the 2004 presidential election: the ground game.
FEC reports filed by Defending Main Street show that the organization spent $100,000 on door hangers to support the Simpson campaign. Though the group has yet to file a report indicating how much has been spent to deliver those door hangers via paid canvassers, a recent article by Reuters indicates those efforts have been extensive, and have been conducted over a period of months, not weeks.
On Sunday, Reuters reported over the weekend “foot soldiers [paid by Defending MainStreet] in the Republican Party’s civil war fanned out across a neighborhood of winding streets and manicured lawns to beat back the Tea Party.”
According to Reuters, the paid canvassers “did not meet much resistance. Over the course of two hours, dozens of residents said they planned to vote in the May 20 primary election for Idaho Representative Mike Simpson,” In contrast, Reuters reported “[n]one said they would back his Tea Party challenger Bryan Smith.”
While there has been little polling done on the race, all signs point to a Simpson victory over Smith on Tuesday. One indication that internal polls may suggest Simpson currently enjoys a large lead is that Smith’s biggest outside backer, Club for Growth, has stopped spending on the race.
For LaTourette, Tuesday’s 2nd Congressional District race is important because it is one of the first real-world opportunity for his organization to deliver on his promises to destroy the Tea Party rebellion.