A New Hampshire primary race will tell a lot about whether Republican voters have forgiven GOP members of Congress who rammed through spendthrift budgets during the better part of the last decade. Charlie Bass, who served 12 years in the House, was there during the wild spending years and often supported the largesse. Now Mr. Bass, who lost his seat in 2006, is trying to get it back -- but first he must get past conservative businesswoman, mom and radio host Jennifer Horn in the Sept. 14 GOP primary.
Conservative New Hampshire voters and Tea Party activists are calling the race a "battle for the soul of the Republican party." Former Republican Congressman Chuck Douglass says: "Look, we all like Charlie, but the problem is he was there during the Bush era, supported the budgets, and didn't vote to cut them." The Bass record would be a "burden in November" on any Republican running in the current anti-big government environment, Mr. Douglass says.
Mr. Bass has also infuriated Tea Party types in other ways. When elected in 1994, he promised to serve only six terms, but tried to break the pledge when he ran again and lost in 2006. He also has supported the left's global warming agenda, causing the National Review to dub him a "cap and trade Republican."
The race promises to bring ideologically opposite ends of the Republican Party into a tug of war. Mr. Bass served as chairman of the left-leaning Main Street Partnership, which supports liberal Republicans for House and Senate. Meanwhile, conservative groups like the Family Research Council have endorsed Ms. Horn and she's hotly pursuing the Club for Growth endorsement. In an interview, Ms. Horn says she expects to have "almost all the conservatives and Tea Party activists in my camp." Mr. Bass, she says, represents "many of the things that went wrong with Republicans in the last eight years."
The seat is open because Democrat Paul Hodes is running for the Senate. It's also a seat Republicans have to win if they are to take back the House in November. Keep an eye on this race. It's an early indicator of whether the GOP grassroots can oust party heavyweights and whether the party is ready to turn aside the Republican old guard for a new generation of conservative leaders.
-- Stephen Moore