Surprised that Sen. Richard Burr joined his colleague Thom Tillis in voting against Loretta Lynch’s nomination for Attorney General? Don’t be.
That’s because Burr isn’t taking any chances when it comes to fending off a potential challenge from the right. In the lead up to the 2016 election cycle, Burr is adhering to this simple philosophy, which he expressed when he announced his 2010 reelection campaign six years ago: “No one can get to the right of me.” Burr isn’t going to let anyone, at least not a conservative primary challenger, be able to paint him as any kind of moderate.
This strategy worked six years ago and it should work this time around too. Burr will have ample funds to stave off any primary challenger, but the campaign would prefer to save their ammo for the general. That means going forward you’re going to see Burr’s voting record look almost identical to Ted Cruz’s, a far cry from back in 2013 when Burr called shutting down the government over Obamacare the ‘dumbest idea ever.’ Burr also raised eyebrows when he voted for a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, one of the few Republicans to do so.
As we get closer to election time, Burr won’t be taking any unnecessary risks, so don’t expect the senior senator to make waves by voting on the wrong side of Tea Party conservatives anytime soon. The payback will come when he easily trumps a bunch of nonentities in the GOP primary next year. His campaign hopes he’ll do so without alienating the moderate vote so crucial to winning statewide in NC, which will allow him to successfully depict himself as a center-right lawmaker for the general election.
The vote against Loretta Lynch is just another part of the Burr strategy to keep the conservative vote secure. Conservatives don’t like Lynch, at all, and suspect she’s just Eric Holder in a dress. In his statement against Lynch’s nomination, Burr referenced the necessity of states being able to enact voter ID laws. Voter ID is conservative catnip, and so is opposition to all things connected with Obama. One could see an Attorney General Lynch really infuriating conservatives. A challenger to Burr could then say, “And he voted for this woman!” Not a risk worth taking.
The vote against Lynch by Thom Tillis was not surprising to the mainstream media, who seem to think the junior senator is the second incarnation of Jesse Helms. But Burr’s vote was. With the Tea Party breathing down his neck, no one should be surprised. The pressure from the conservative base means that for the remainder of this Congress, NC is going to be represented by a pair of Ted Cruzes – and, if anything, Burr’s voting record will be the more conservative of the two.
2016 news: Kay Hagan last week tweeted photo of her and her granddaughter at UNC game. Innocent snapshot into her life, or a conveyance of interest in another campaign? Also, Greg Brannon has launched a Super PAC and incorrectly stated he lost his Senate bid by “two heartbreaking percentage points.” Not sure where he’s getting the two points from.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.