The debate National Review has sparked by endorsing John McCain over J.D. Hayworth is worthwhile. McCain’s faults are numerous. But unlike Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, and Marco Rubio, Hayworth is a conservative primary challenger who went along with a lot of what was wrong with the Republican Party under Bush: the Medicare prescription drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, and the earmarks binge. There’s little evidence that he’d join the ranks of Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn in the Senate, and his opposition to TARP — which passed when he was no longer in Congress to vote for big-government conservative projects — seems a little too convenient.
On the other hand, defeating McCain would really put the Republican Party on notice that it could no longer use conservatives as doormats. It might even help conservatives recover from the damage of having McCain as the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. And on Iraq and amnesty, nobody went along with what went wrong with the party under Bush more than McCain. Unseating McCain would send such a loud message precisely because he wasn’t as systematic in his trangressions as Arlen Specter or Dede Scozzafava while also being a bigger name in the party than Charlie Crist or Bob Bennett (both of whom NR opposed, if I recall correctly).
Hayworth as a top conservative messenger is deeply unpalatable. But reining in the RINOs could be worth doing even if it must be done with an imperfect candidate. At least those are my preliminary thoughts on the subject. Right now, I’m open to persuasion either way. Here’s a piece I did on the race recently.