The Conservative Case For Joseph Cao

Here at the Hayride we’ve been highly critical of Rep. Joseph Cao and some of his votes in Congress. We’ve also posted a bounty of sorts on RINO’s like Mike Castle and Lisa Murkowski.

So today, when we attempt to convince conservatives in the 2nd District to get out the vote to send Cao back to the House of Representatives, we’re bound to catch criticism from some quarters as hypocritical or “selling out.” We’ll address that, too.

On the surface, in the middle and at bottom this is not difficult stuff. Cao might not be much of a Republican, but he is a Republican. Cao’s opponent Cedric Richmond absolutely is not. If you’re a conservative, you’re probably a Republican and that would indicate you’re a Cao voter even though Cao is certainly no conservative.

But there is what looks like a small but potentially significant percentage of vote in the 2nd District which is leaning away from Cao. Not toward Richmond, but to independent 3rd-party candidate Anthony Marquize. Some members of the Greater New Orleans Tea Party are now pushing Marquize, in somewhat indelicate fashion at times. The gist of the attacks is Cao’s vote in favor of Obamacare the first time it went through the House – though he did vote against final passage.

Marquize is little-known and poorly financed. According to his last campaign finance report dated Sept. 30, he’s raised $7,700 and spent $5,600 in this race. He can’t win, because regardless of the quality of his message almost nobody in the district knows who he is – and with financials like that nobody in the district will know who he is by Election Day.

Cao’s record of attempting to placate the heavy Democrat vote in the 2nd District is deserving of some level of opprobrium among conservatives. There should be no problem with a debate on the Right about that tactic – one could argue that Cao’s 2008 election was a fluke in the first place, it could be taken for granted that he’s going to lose either this fall or as soon as the Democrats find a viable candidate to take him on and as such attempting to steer a narrow path to reelection by voting for leftist positions is a fool’s errand. Cao chose to attempt to represent his constituents, most of whom have disastrously stupid ideas about policy and the performance of President Obama, by hewing to their preferences as much as practicable. Either position you might favor can be supported in an argument.

But such an argument is best made in a party primary. If Cao had attracted a primary challenger, like Mr. Marquize for example, that would have been a healthy race and perhaps Mr. Marquize might have gotten some traction. If nothing else, Cao would have had to explain to the conservatives who turned out in force to help elect him in 2008 why he spends so much time cozying up to the President – which makes us break out in hives here at the Hayride regardless of the political efficacy of doing so.

In short, that would have been a worthy discussion. And Cao would have likely won it, seeing as though his fundraising prowess as a Republican who can get elected in a Democrat district would have buried an insurgent candidate in this cycle. But the point would have been made, and it would have been made without contributing to electing a candidate that conservatives and moderates alike despise.

And that’s the difference between supporting Cao and opposing Mike Castle. Castle lost a GOP primary, just as Cao may have lost one should Marquize have challenged him in that venue. There is a difference between losing on principle and slashing one’s own throat. And if you’re looking for a more practical difference between Cao and Castle, consider that Castle voted in favor of Cap and Trade and Cao opposed it. That difference alone means Cao has value to conservatives.

As things stand now, though, the small percentage of the vote that Marquize may get from disaffected conservatives (One percent? Three? Five?) could well be what Richmond needs to get elected. The Public Policy Polling survey last week which gave Richmond a 45-36 lead might be an outlier; the poll sample for that survey skewed more heavily favorable to Richmond than the electorate will be, and our estimation is that Richmond’s lead is probably closer to five percent. Whatever percentage of the vote which is contemplating pulling the lever for Marquize could be applied to narrow the gap and contribute to defeating the Democrat – if those voters are thinking practically.

Let’s remember that the opposition to Richmond isn’t just ideological. You could make the argument that a Cao who spends his time cuddling up to Obama and giving the President a friendly vote here and there renders him no different from a Democrat. But the one thing nobody has questioned about Cao is his integrity. He’s honest and he stays out of trouble. That can’t be said about Richmond, who lost his law license for a time after running for a New Orleans city council seat in a district he didn’t live in. Whose involvement in a non-profit scam looks like a classic execution of the Dollar Bill Jefferson family business. Whose association with unsavory characters, including a murderer, continues. And whose behavior in drinking establishments resulted in a police citation in 2007. It should be a priority of all voters unaligned with such a candidate on ideological grounds – and some who are so aligned – to prevent him from attaining congressional office.

Finally, Cao’s utility to the conservative cause in the next Congress will be satisfactory for the sole reason than a re-elected Cao would vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, as the Speaker of the House. Once that vote is taken and Boehner wins thanks to a Republican majority Cao is part of, the kinds of left-wing legislation he angered conservatives by voting for will no longer be part of the landscape. He might be voting against good bills, but when no bad bills can reach the floor under a GOP majority Cao can’t do damage. And for that Boehner vote alone, Cao is the right choice for conservatives. Any other vote hands the Democrats a vote Nancy Pelosi can count on to remain as Speaker of the House.

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