ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: With a conservative revolt pushing a Republican candidate out of a key House race in New York State, the head of the conservative group Club for Growth is warning that other Republicans could face similar fates in primary races next year -- and Gov. Charlie Crist, R-Fla., is at the top of that list.
Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” that Crist -- who’s running for an open Senate seat next year -- and other moderate Republicans can expect aggressive primary challenges.
“We’re seriously looking at it. We like Marco Rubio a lot. We think that Charlie Crist represents some of the same things that Dede Scozzafava represents,” said Chocola, a former Republican House member from Indiana.
“[Crist] clearly supported the Obama stimulus plan -- he traveled around the state supporting it. And so we’re seriously looking at it, and we’ll make a decision in the very near future.”
Crist has been endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The party establishment offered similar support to Scozzafava in the race in New York’s 23rd congressional district, but the club joined other groups in rallying support for Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in that race.
Scozzafava dropped out of the race on Saturday, and on Sunday she endorsed Democratic candidate Bill Owens.
Chocola said other candidates could also come under scrutiny from the right. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who’s running for the Senate next year, is “probably not” someone the club would support, he said.
Chocola said his mind is still open on Kelly Ayotte, the former New Hampshire Attorney General who is running for an open Senate seat next year in what’s shaping up to be a crowded primary.
“We don’t know yet. She’s never been elected to anything so it’s hard to determine exactly where she stands on the issues,” he said of Ayotte.
It’s already been something of a banner year for the Club for Growth. Even before Hoffman’s emergence forced out Scozzafava, Sen. Arlen Specter was forced to become a Democrat because of the prospect of losing a GOP primary challenge to Pat Toomey, Chocola’s predecessor as the club’s president.
On the broad lessons of such races, Chocola said, “I think the American people like pro growth policies . . . Through the tea-party movement, through the town hall meetings we saw in August, there’s a clear message here. And if anybody doesn’t hear it I think they ignore it at their own peril.”
Candidates that don’t learn those lessons, he said, “could find themselves in the same position that Dede Scozzafava found herself.”
Chocola rejected the argument -- advanced by, among others, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas -- that Republicans need to find candidates whose politics closely match those of blue-leaning districts in order to win back majorities in Congress.
“I don’t know anybody sending in more taxes than they owe anywhere in the country,” he said. “I don’t think these races are about two parties. I think they’re about two places: inside Washington and outside Washington.”
Click HERE to see the full interview with Chris Chocola.
We also chatted with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to get his take on tomorrow’s key races.
If Hoffman wins, Nagourney said, “I think you’ll see conservatives emboldened by this. I think you’ll see Republicans really take a second look and sort of bucking the conservatives on this. So I think they’ll be many, many, many more [primary] challenges. I think it could definitely be a problem for them,” Nagourney said.
Watch the discussion with Adam Nagourney HERE .