In 1978, Democratic upstart John Hill upended incumbent Gov. Dolph Briscoe in the primary -- only to fall to Clements in the general election. Clements attributed part of this 1978 victory to the fact that the party in power -- the the Democrats -- had become sharply divided. The party out of power -- in this case, the GOP -- won. It was something that the former GOP governor warned against amid the prospects of a KBH-Perry matchup in 2006. Said Clements, in an op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News:"Make no mistake, if Texas Republicans have a blood bath in a primary battle between Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry, we are providing theDemocrats an opening to make a speedy comeback to politicalprominence. We risk dividing our party for decades to come. This isserious business, and Republicans should take heed.""I've been there when we were the minority party and when themajority party turned its guns on itself. When the smoke cleared,the political world in Texas was turned upside down."
Are these thoughts still operative? I don't know. The Dems are licking their chops about it though if Burnt Orange is any indication (link).
I believe people certainly have the right to run against incumbents in primaries, and doing so can be great at times. There are a lot of Republicans In Name Only out there who need that treatment. A lot of times primaries from a conservative challenger to a moderate/liberal are discouraged by the party establishment because it will open up the general election to the Democrats. Bush supported Specter in 2004 in order to keep that Senate seat in GOP hands.
In Texas right now, we have the opposite in many ways... an effective conservative governor being challenged by a more moderate Senator, and the end result would be to open up the general election to the Democrats.
I think I speak for a lot of Republicans in Texas when I say it would be great if we could avoid a bloody and expensive primary in our party this year. We have a chance to take back a lot of Texas and United States House seats alike in our party. We have a chance to win back a few Senate seats and governorships around the country. I wish we could spend our time, money, and effort on getting more Republicans elected and weakening the Obama administration's push for liberalism, not on tearing each other apart with tens of millions of dollars of petty negative advertisements.