MORE FOR CHUCK TO CHEW ON. Earlier this week, I noted in a post that Chuck Schumer had benefited from Democratic post-primary unity in New York in 1998 when his defeated opponents rallied to his side, and he went on to beat Al D�Amato. The idea is that now, as head of the DSCC, Schumer should learn from his own example and that the party ought to rally around the primary winner in, to pick a random state, Connecticut, let�s say.
But an old friend writes in to tell me there�s a far better precedent for Schumer to follow, and it, too, involved D�Amato. It was 1980, and D�Amato was running against Jacob Javits in the GOP primary. Javits, like Joe Lieberman, was the party�s incumbent. D�Amato, like Ned Lamont, was the insurgent challenger. The GOP establishment had backed Javits in the primary.
But when the Fonz won the September 9 primary, the GOP faced a dilemma, because Javits announced that he would continue to run in the general election on the Liberal Party ballot line, which he had secured back in the spring. So, would the GOPers go with the guy who won their primary, or the guy who was a longtime senator but who�d lost the primary?
Initially, then-RSCC chair John Heinz of Pennsylvania had said that the party would have to �carefully evaluate� the situation. But within two weeks, The New York Times was reporting that the RSCC had decided to back D�Amato. �None of us has any qualms about providing money to him in any way,� Alan Simpson told the paper, and the RSCC released about $235,000 to D�Amato, with more coming later (this is off Nexis, so I can�t provide a link, but the article appeared on September 25, 1980, and was written by Frank Lynn).
So there is a precedent for a party withdrawing support from its own incumbent after that incumbent has lost a primary and switching its support to the challenger.