In it, but not of it. TPM DC
If he wins the Lt. Gov. nomination, it may be difficult for Metcalfe's fellow republicans to keep him happy given the views he holds. Metcalfe says he's a dyed-in-the-wool conservative (he told me "I was a tea partier before it was cool") and promises to fight his own party if necessary to maintain purity on issues like gun rights, tax reduction and "keeping marriage between a man and a woman."
Last October, Metcalfe landed in hot water after he called veterans who support global climate change treaties "traitors to their oaths to uphold the constitution."
That flap, which netted him national attention from the netroots, came just a month after Metcalfe objected to a state resolution calling for a Domestic Violence Awareness month because he claimed the bill "had a homosexual agenda." That stance got him national headlines.
Metcalfe stood by his controversial statements in our conversation last week, claiming that he expresses the position of the majority of Pennsylvanians. What's more, he's prepared to make them the position of the Republican ticket should he win the nomination. He said two men currently vying for the gubernatorial nomination, Attorney General Tom Corbett and state Rep. Sam Rohrer, seem to be saying the right things on the trail now, and he's declined to endorse or criticize either one of them. But Metcalfe warned me that he's seen that movie before.
"From what I've heard so far, they're lining up where I'm at [on the issues]," Metcalfe said. "Bit we usually see Republican candidates line up on the right side before the election, though. It's when they get elected that they change their minds."
I asked him what he would do if he saw his party's nominee for governor shift to left on the campaign trail.
"I would take them on if they went that way," he said.
The gubernatorial nominee would not be forced to appear with Metcalfe or run with him in public. But Metcalfe would be on the GOP ballot line if he wins the primary and would have a powerful bully pulpit from which to lob criticisms at the gubernatorial nominee taking stances he doesn't like. The infighting could cause problems for a Republican party facing an open race and polls that show them with an early lead (Democratic incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell, is prevented from running again due to term-limits.)
Metcalfe fears that should Republicans take back the top job in Pennsylvania, their nominee will end up going moderate rather then sticking to their conservative guns. Metcalfe intends to make sure conservative Republicans know if their governor is slipping.
"I'm tired of politicians, especially Republicans, saying one thing on the campaign trail and then changing completely when they get into office," Metcalfe told me in an interview Friday. "I'm running as the accountability candidate."
Metcalfe says that throughout his political career, he's seen Republican nominees run to the right during the campaign only to watch them flip once in office and support programs that impose "a greater tax burden upon our citizens that takes away our wealth" and support legislation that "violates the trust of the voters by reducing our freedoms."
If he wins, he says he'll do regular reviews of what the government is up to, working from the inside as a kind of public advocate for conservative values. His leverage will be a promise to run a primary campaign against a Republican governor that strays from the rightward path. "Nobody has ever run a Lt. Gov. campaign like this one," Metcalfe told me. "I'm saying 'make me Lt. Gov. and I'll run against the governor in four years if he doesn't do what he says he will."
To get there, he'll have to beat a field of nine Republican candidates already vying for the Lt. Gov. nomination. Metcalfe's entry into the race was something of a surprise, coming on the last day candidates could file to run. Local media reports suggest that no one knew Metcalfe was planning to run for statewide office.
Metcalfe told me that was all part of the plan. He said he had to run a "under the radar" signature drive in secret, because if the state party found out what he was doing, it would "run a liberal Republican against me in a primary [in his legislative district] to keep me out of the race."
Besides, he pointed out, the "under the radar" story netted him statewide media coverage that other Lt. Gov. nominees didn't get. Plus he said his conservative credentials have built him a ready-made state network outside the mainstream of Republican politics.
"I've been pounding away in the shadows for months already," he said.