The Club for Growth is denying rumors that its president, Chris Chocola, is leaving the free-market group amid a swirl of rumors about his future.
"Chris Chocola remains safely ensconced at the head of the Club for Growth," said Club spokesman Barney Keller, in a statement to National Journal. "The rumors of his demise are as exaggerated as the rumors of the Obamacare website being fixed."
Speculation about Chocola's future has increased after a tumultuous midterm election cycle, during which it failed to support a single candidate who defeated a Senate Republican incumbent. (The group did defeat a pair of GOP House incumbents.) An early effort to find primary challengers for 10 House Republican incumbents didn't yield any victories, and the most high-profile of the Club's candidates, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, lost in stunning fashion to Sen. Thad Cochran during a June run-off.
That's unusual for the Club, which in recent elections has helped elect one-time insurgent candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida or Mike Lee in Utah. The group's leaders pride themselves, they say, on endorsing only candidates who are both authentic fiscal conservatives and capable of winning general elections "“ something they say they guarantee by a thorough vetting of every prospective candidate. It's not coincidence that among the many tea-party-aligned groups that back conservative challenges to establishment-friendly Republicans, its endorsement is seen as the most important.
But this year's losses have given establishment Republicans "“ like those at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Chamber of Commerce "“ an opening to argue that they have retaken control of the party's primary process after successive election cycles in which its preferred nominee and incumbents frequently lost. Groups like the Club for Growth, they argue, are no longer as important as they once were, either on Capitol Hill (where the Club support or opposes legislation) or in campaigns.
Ironically, CFG had its greatest success this year supporting establishment-friendly candidates who likewise earned the support of groups like the NRSC or Chamber. It endorsed NRSC-backed candidates like Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Dan Sullivan in Alaska, and "“ perhaps more notably "“ declined to endorse conservative challengers to North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis and the GOP Senate leader, Mitch McConnell.