Drafting the Conservative Class for 2010

Talk to House Republicans on the Hill, and taking back the majority in November sounds as attainable as Meryl Streep winning an Oscar.

But for the House Conservative Fund, a political action committee resurrected in 2005, it’s important to make sure that majority isn’t just Republican, but also conservative.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who’s chaired HFC since March 2009, says the PAC will be involve in key primaries to make sure conservatives get elected. This election cycle, the HCF has already named ten House hopefuls—some who had primaries—to contribute to.

Before the check comes, candidates fill out a questionnaire about their views on economic, social and national defense policy. The HCF will parse their record, if there is one, keeping an eye out for votes on tax issues, whether they’re pro life, and whether they took the Americans for Tax Reform pledge (which opposes tax increases). The HCF also researches the candidates’ work in their districts and interviews each candidate.

McHenry estimates the HCF will be involved in 20-50 races this election cycle, but the PAC’s focus is on quality over quantity.

“We actually ask ourselves, is this a Marco Rubio?” McHenry said.

One 2010 candidate who he feels is a House version of Marco Rubio is Sean Duffy, a district attorney, lumberjack athlete, ESPN commentator, reality TV star, husband, and father of five, who is challenging Rep. David Obey, author of the stimulus bill, in Wisconsin.

McHenry thinks it’s not just who Duffy’s running against—a 21-term congressman “who was in Congress before a man walked on the moon,” McHenry says—but it’s the strength of Duffy’s character and how he runs his campaign that will bring him success. McHenry said when you meet Duffy, when you talk to him, and when you see how his campaign’s been organized, “You see the vulnerability of David Obey.”

“Marco Rubio is just a great example on the Senate side of what we’re trying to do on the House side,” McHenry said, adding that it’s more difficult to generate the kind of press Rubio has gotten in a Florida U.S. Senate race over the 435-seat House of Representatives.

“I think they should pay attention to these House races because we can truly take the majority in 2010, and it’s going to be a very long shot for Republicans to take the majority in the Senate.”

In March, Duffy was one of the ten House candidates the HCF announced it was endorsing for 2010 (its first round of endorsements this year), with each candidate receiving the maximum $5,000 from HCF. The new group’s ideals and motivation, says McHenry, reminds him of the class of ’94, which retook the House after decades of begin in the minority. Rather than just being frustrated by the direction of the country, they’re motivated to change it.

“I’ve been around politics and campaigns for a long time, and I’ve not seen a crop of candidates that are so qualified as we’re seeing in 2010,” said McHenry, who’s serving his third term in Congress. “Whether it’s Sean Duffy, who’s a DA in Wisconsin, or a Steven Fincher in Tennessee, or a Martha Roby in Alabama—she’s in her mid-thirties, a working mother who’s a city councilman, who is a conservative, who can beat the incumbent Democrat.”

The list goes on: small business owner Jim Renacci in Ohio, state senator and colonel in the U.S. Army Dr. Joe Heck in Nevada, 18-year Marine Corps leader Voughn Ward in Idaho, physician and Navy veteran Andy Harris in Maryland. There’s also Sam Caligiuri, who got elected as state senator as a social and economic conservative in Connecticut, and conservatives Steve Chabot and Steve Pearce running to regain their seats in Ohio and New Mexico, respectively. They’re all challenging Democrat incumbents except for Fincher, who, according to McHenry, raised so much money that the incumbent John Tanner decided not to run again.

“This is all about playing offense,” McHenry said. “We’re saying, whether you’re in Connecticut or Nevada or Wisconsin or Tennessee, we can elect conservatives."