ChrisWeigant.com

Tea Party's Midterm Influence

[ Posted Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 – 16:57 PDT ]

Three states held Republican primary elections yesterday, which makes it a good time to check in on the Tea Party and their preferred candidates, to see how things now stand (as well as where they could head), as we get closer to the midterm elections in November.

Now, the nebulous nature of who, exactly, is a "Tea Party candidate" -- as well as the decentralized nature of the Tea Party movement itself -- make it all but impossible to spot overall trends, or to make nationwide predictions. Some Tea Party candidates are self-professed Tea Partiers, but even some of these are rejected by Tea Party groups in their states. This leads to much confusion over who really is, and who is not, a Tea Party candidate. To complicate matters even further, everything changes from state to state, and from Tea Party group to Tea Party group. But even with those caveats, it's interesting to see how it is all playing out at the state level, mostly in contests for the U.S. Senate.

Florida is, to date, the biggest Tea Party success story. But it likely won't be the only one, when the dust settles on the Republican primary season. Marco Rubio successfully shoved Republican Governor Charlie Crist not just out of the Republican primary, but out of the Republican Party altogether. This may wind up being a Pyrrhic victory for him (and the Tea Partiers), if Crist is ultimately victorious in his Independent run against Rubio in the general election. Polls taken after Crist's announcement that he was going to attempt "pulling off a Lieberman" show Crist with a slight edge over Rubio, with the Democratic candidate trailing both. It remains to be seen whether Crist can hold this edge or not until November, of course, but Crist beating Rubio would be a big blow to the Tea Partiers. As with most of these candidates, some Tea Partiers even deny Rubio is one of them, I should add. The media, though, seem to have dubbed him the "Tea Party candidate" in the race -- which Rubio has welcomed -- so make of that what you will.

Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina all held primaries yesterday, and they were all bad news for Tea Party candidates, as "establishment Republican" candidates won the day across the board. In Indiana, Dan Coats won a brutal three-way race against two Tea Party candidates (one of whom even had the endorsement of Ron Paul), but he did so with less than 40 percent of the vote. An established House Republican, Dan Burton, successfully fended off challengers in his primary, but won his race with less than 30 percent of the vote. In North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr easily won his primary, which is good news for him because Democrats may have a solid chance against him in the fall. In Ohio, Rob Portman won his primary as well. Meaning that none of the Tea Party challengers were able to wrest the GOP nomination away from establishment Republican candidates.

In upcoming races, Tea Party candidates have mixed chances as well. California's Tea Party candidate for the Republican nomination (to take on sitting Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer) has seen his chances dwindle. Chuck DeVore, who was supposed to lead some sort of Tea Party upwelling in the Golden State, has barely cracked double digits in polling against the other two Republicans in the race. Part of the reason for this is that one of those candidates jumped from running for Governor to running for the Senate after facing Meg Whitman's bottomless checkbook. Tom Campbell -- a very moderate Republican -- is now leading Carly Fiorina in the polls, with DeVore struggling to get his numbers into the teens. But Fiorina has a pretty big checkbook herself, so this race is still wide open. Unfortunately for the Tea Partiers, it is only wide open between Campbell and Fiorina -- DeVore's chances of winning the nomination are about nil, right now.

Next door in Arizona, however, the Tea Party has a better chance. John McCain is in the primary fight of his life right now, and is tacking about as far right as he can in his attempt to fend off Tea Party favorite J.D. Hayworth. While polls from Arizona are all over the map, it seems McCain is holding a fairly comfortable edge right now, but who knows what will happen on primary day? Currently, both candidates are trying to milk the new Arizona immigration law for as much political benefit as they can manage. Even if the Tea Party candidate loses here, they have successfully forced McCain to hew a lot further to the right, which they may see as a victory of some sort or another.

In Utah, though, the Tea Partiers seem to be on the verge of successfully pulling off a "coup" from within the Republican Party. Utah doesn't have primary elections where voters choose party candidates. Instead, there is a meeting of party delegates, who vote for the nominee. And if, in the first round of this voting, a candidate doesn't get 40 percent of the vote, he or she is out of the race. This is likely to happen this weekend to the sitting (and very conservative) Republican Senator Bob Bennett.

The upcoming race which Tea Partiers are most excited about, however, is Kentucky -- since their preferred candidate is none other than Rand Paul, son of the aforementioned Ron Paul. So far, Paul seems to be absolutely crushing his opponent, which is especially embarassing to Washington Republicans, since their Senate Minority Leader (Mitch McConnell, also from Kentucky) hand-picked the establishment GOP candidate in the race. But Kentucky voters aren't in the mood for Mitch to tell them who to vote for, it seems, and the smart money in this race is that Rand Paul walks away with it.

Yesterday's primaries could be bad news for Democrats in Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina, however, as Republican turnout was up across the board, and Democratic turnout was down. Now, these are just primaries, but it is still proof of the "enthusiasm gap" between Democratic voters and Republicans, which could be very bad news indeed for Democrats come the fall.

Or, maybe, it won't. Because the big unanswered question is whether the Tea Partiers can maintain their enthusiasm in November -- especially when "their candidate" isn't even on the ballot anymore. Or, more ominously for Republicans perhaps, what these defeated candidates will do now -- gracefully leave the field, or run as a Tea Party candidate in the fall, creating a three-way race.

We already have one three-way race in Florida, where the Tea Partier could win, lose to the Independent, or even split the vote so effectively that the Democrat wins. What would happen in a state like Indiana if one of the Tea Party candidates decides to make a run as a third-party candidate in the general election (I have to note, some states don't even allow this, and I have not checked whether it's even legal to do so in Indiana)? Seemingly, because the Tea Partier couldn't even get a plurality of the Republican vote, they wouldn't have much chance in the general, but consider that with two Tea Party candidates in the Indiana primary, the Tea Party vote may have been split, and may prove to be stronger than expected. Or what would happen if a Republican forced out of the race (McCain, or Bennett, for instance) decided to go the Charlie Crist route and run in the general as an Independent?

Even a marginal Tea Party candidate in the general race can have a big "spoiler" effect. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's best chance of avoiding defeat by his Republican opponent this fall may be if the Tea Party candidate in the race pulls enough of the vote to deny the Republican the win.

What all of this means, as I said at the beginning, is pretty much open to interpretation. Perhaps the Tea Party voters will rally around the Republican nominees in November, or perhaps they will stay home in disgust at their candidate being defeated. Perhaps even having a three-way race (as in Florida) will allow for a Tea Party candidate victory, because they will only need slightly more than one-third of the vote to win in such a contest, if the votes are spread fairly evenly -- far less than they'd need in a two-person race.

What will most likely happen is that the Tea Party folks win a few and lose a few. This may be due to the available choice of candidates in any one particular race, or it may manifest itself as a state-by-state phenomenon, due to the decentralized nature of the movement itself. What this all means for Democrats' chances in the general election are equally as murky. Perhaps the Democrats can win some races they probably wouldn't have, due to the presence of two opponents. And perhaps they won't be able to capitalize on the situation because the Tea Party folks turn out to the polls in droves, while Democratic voters stay home.

The only thing which does seem certain at this point is that the Tea Party movement has definitely had an influence on the Republican Party. Current Republican officeholders who don't even identify themselves as part of the Tea Party movement are now being very careful not to say or do anything which would raise the Tea Party's ire towards them. Meaning the Republican Party, as a whole, is undeniably being dragged even further right by the Tea Partiers. In an anti-incumbent year, this may help both the Tea Partiers and Republicans win seats in Congress this fall, especially in the House (which I've barely mentioned here). Outside of the short term, however, it remains to be seen whether this is a good move for the Republican Party in elections to follow, because the Tea Partiers' insistence on purist ideology may shrink the party's appeal (especially to moderate and independent voters) in the long run. Either way, it's definitely going to be an interesting election season to watch.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

19 Comments on “Tea Party's Midterm Influence”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Meaning the Republican Party, as a whole, is undeniably being dragged even further right by the Tea Partiers.

    Rather ironic, no?? :D

    The Tea Party, which is unarguably a "centrist" or even a "progressive" movement, is actually pushing the GOP further to the Right...

    In a further burst of irony, you have DP leadership using perverse slurs against the Tea Party, pushing more moderates and independents that would normally lean Left, into the Tea Party camp.

    I saids it before and I saids it again..

    I think the Tea Party will have more of a negative impact on the DP than on the GOP. Because Left-leaning independents that WOULD have stayed home in disgust over the DP candidates will now actually turn out and vote for the TP/GOP candidate.

    Michale.....

  2. [2] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Thanks for posting this, Chris. This is one of the things I was curious about from the elections.

    I think it's interesting that the Tea Party and folks like Rand Paul are generating the most enthusiasm among conservatives because otherwise there seems to be a bit of a vacuum in the Republican party.

    By that I mean, they don't seem to stand for much of anything anymore except being anti-Obama. They're even willing to take a pro-Government stance if it means trying to make Obama look bad - reference all the blame being tossed around about the BP oil spill. Somehow this is suddenly Obama's fault in the eyes of many Republicans. They're also willing to try to appear on the side of the people against Wall Street. Funny, given that there philosophy over the past 30 years has been deregulation.

    From a branding perspective, the Tea Party is also interesting. It provides a brand that folks aren't familiar with. It's an opportunity for re-branding. "Tea Party" starts with a clean slate. While Republicans haven't done much to try to rehabilitate their brand.

    Here in Ohio from a Democratic standpoint, it was a little disappointing that 2 progressive candidates who ran small, grassroots campaigns w/o a lot of corporate backing lost their primaries to more traditional Dems who picked up corporate sponsorship. David Krikorian lost to an establishment backed candidate Surya Yalamanchili. And Jennifer Brunner lost to the more established and more conservative Lee Fisher. Though both races were close.

    I think it's a good sign that the races were close but still a little discouraging that the candidate who raised more money won.

    Just a couple of comments on a Thursday morning.

    -David

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    By that I mean, they don't seem to stand for much of anything anymore except being anti-Obama.

    Ya know, that tired old dog simply will not hunt anymore.

    It just SEEMS that all the TP is about is anti-Obama because practically everything that Obama has done in the last year or so has been wrong and bad for the country..

    I mean, seriously...

    How the hell does the US Government expect to impose financial discipline on the private sector when the Government itself hasn't CLUE ONE as to what financial discipline is all about, eh??

    Perhaps the Obama Administration should clean it's own house and get rid of IT'S lobbyist and corporate problems before it tries to point the finger at others, no??

    Maybe if the Obama Administration spent less time SPINNING and more time DOING, this country would not be in the mess it is in now...

    Michale.....

  4. [4] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Ya know, that tired old dog simply will not hunt anymore.

    What do you think they stand for these days then?

    Perhaps the Obama Administration should clean it's own house and get rid of IT'S lobbyist and corporate problems before it tries to point the finger at others, no??

    This is actually not a bad idea. If Democrats were to bring back campaign finance and lobbying reform, I think they might actually be able to pass it.

    I'd love to see stronger campaign finance and lobbying laws. Now there might be some folks from both sides of the aisle who would fight this.

    Imagine for a second, a bill called the "Corporate Lobbying Reduction Act" or something like this. I'd love to see some folks on both sides be put on the spot for opposing this.

    Cheers,
    David

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    What do you think they stand for these days then?

    A fiscally responsible government that is less intrusive and committed to serve the needs of Main St and John Q Public insteal of.... er... I mean INSTEAD of.. :D.. Wall St and Goldman F CEO....

    Can you say with a straight face that ANYTHING that Obama has done in the last 8 months made your life or my life better??

    I doubt it.... :D

    Imagine for a second, a bill called the "Corporate Lobbying Reduction Act" or something like this. I'd love to see some folks on both sides be put on the spot for opposing this.

    You and me both..

    But we can't count on the GOP to put this forth, so it's up to the Democrats..

    Oh my gods, we are so frak'ed....

    Michale.....

  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    A fiscally responsible government that is less intrusive and committed to serve the needs of Main St and John Q Public insteal of.... er... I mean INSTEAD of.. :D.. Wall St and Goldman F CEO....

    Here's what I don't understand then.

    If this is the new GOP and what they stand for, why wouldn't they be willing to put forth lobbying reform?

    Why would Dems be more likely to do this?

    Think about it like this, if the GOP grabbed this issue and put the Dems on the defensive, wouldn't that help them out?

    I honestly don't care who sponsors it or introduces it, I'd just like to see true lobbying reform.

    -David

  7. [7] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. I'm changing the name of my bill to the "Corporate Lobbying Responsibility Act"

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    I honestly don't care who sponsors it or introduces it, I'd just like to see true lobbying reform.

    As would I...

    But until we, ALL of us, can look past the USvsTHEM/Political Party Above All Else mindset, this will never happen.

    Do away with lobbyists all together. Get rid of political partys totally...

    Put EVERY American on equal footing as far as access to their leaders go...

    Only then can we have the kind of government that we really need...

    Barring that, the next best thing is simply to put me in charge and then everything will be OK... :D

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    akadjian wrote:

    A fiscally responsible government that is less intrusive and committed to serve the needs of Main St and John Q Public insteal of.... er... I mean INSTEAD of.. :D.. Wall St and Goldman F CEO.

    If this is the new GOP and what they stand for, why wouldn't they be willing to put forth lobbying reform?

    Why would Dems be more likely to do this?

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Why would Dems be more likely to do this?

    No one is claiming that the DP would be "more likely" to do it..

    Obviously, the DP has as many Corporate Whores (TM ChrisWeigant.Com :D) as the GOP...

    But, in the here and now, the DP is the only ones CAPABLE of doing it.

    Once the GOP becomes the majority Party again in 2011 and takes the White House in 2012, then THEY will be the ones on the hot seat...

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Corporate Whores=CW???

    Chris Weigant=CW???

    ..........

    Naw, it's GOT to be a coincidence..

    :D hehehehehehehe

    Michale.....

  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Michale,

    As the minority party, I think Republicans could certainly push for lobbying reform to a great political advantage. It would provide actual evidence that they are indeed looking to "serve the needs of Main St and John Q. Public" instead of just talking about it.

    I'd like to see the Dems push for it as to me they seem much more interested in achieving a balance between corporate interests and the people.

    It's fantastic that Harry Reid and the Senate leadership have just endorsed Sherrod Brown's amendment to break up the banks, for example.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/06/reid-backs-breaking-up-ba_n_566192.html

    To paraphrase Joe Biden: This is 'effin' big!

    Look for lots of lobbying against it. It's certainly not going to make Dems popular w/ Wall Street.

    As I've stated before, with Democrats, lobbying buys you a seat at the table. With Republicans, it buys you the table.

    This is a big difference and why right now it's easier to believe the Dems are working more to help Main St.

    Cheers
    David

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    As I've stated before, with Democrats, lobbying buys you a seat at the table. With Republicans, it buys you the table.

    What does it matter?? Something is being bought, rather than earned...

    This is a big difference and why right now it's easier to believe the Dems are working more to help Main St.

    Do you HONESTLY believe that??

    Seriously??

    Do you think that the DP are pulling these scams and bribes and backroom deals to help YOU and ME???

    Honestly???

    The Dems are simply pulling these deals to help the Dem Party..

    PERIOD...

    All one has to do is look at all the campaign contributions made to Dems in the last couple years to know that.

    Guess who was the biggest recipient of BP donations???

    President Obama...

    And here I thought *I* was the idealistic one amongst this crowd...

    Wake up and smell the corruption, David... :D

    There really isn't any difference between the GOP and the Dem Party when it comes to corruption and being bought...

    You can't tell me that Murtha et al didn't sell the table, either...

    Michale.....

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Long story short, David..

    I will concede that, generally speaking, the GOP is probably a Tad ("not a Hillary but a Tad" :D you probably won't get that unless you were on Okinawa in the early 80s.. :D)... anyways... The DP are probably a tad less corrupt than the GOP.

    I'll grant you that..

    BUT...

    But, when you look at the circumstances in the here and now, with that little War Against Terrorism thingy, that minuscule difference doesn't even come CLOSE to matching up with the HUGE deficit that the DP has compared to the GOP with regards to fighting a war...

    In other words, I would rather have a more corrupt government with regards to Wall Street and Finance issues that knows how to kick ass and take names, rather than a government that is LESS corrupt in the Finance area, but goes out of it's way to coddle and protect and Mirandize scumbag terrorists who are doing their best to brutally murder as many innocent Americans as possible...

    In short...

    I don't want to lead a battalion of Pearce's into battle, but I probably wouldn't mind them when it comes to cleaning up afterwards...

    It's all a matter of priorities...

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Appreciate your honesty, Michale. Though I disagree with you, at least I understand you now.

    You do know, of course, that one of the biggest lobbying industries is defense, right?

    Cheers
    David

  15. [15] 
    Michale wrote:

    Yes I do...

    I also know that many of the lobbying efforts ARE geared towards keeping our troops safe and well equipped..

    Yes, I know that there are those who cheat and scam and screw the US in the name of "Defense" and "Support The Troops"...

    But that doesn't (or shouldn't) negate the very real and pressing need that the Defense lobbying represents...

    "A civilization progresses best when it can defend itself."
    -Commander George Kirk, FINAL FRONTIER

    All other considerations are secondary.

    Michale.....

  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    But, when you look at the circumstances in the here and now, with that little War Against Terrorism thingy, that minuscule difference doesn't even come CLOSE to matching up with the HUGE deficit that the DP has compared to the GOP with regards to fighting a war.

    It seems to me that Obama is continuing most if not all of the policies of the Bush administration when it comes to terrorism.

    (Much to my chagrin, I'd add. I actually feel safer w/ him as President because he's generated so much more goodwill throughout the world. But you know where I stand on this so I won't rehash.)

    I am curious, though, what would you have him do differently?

    Best
    David

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    I actually feel safer w/ him as President because he's generated so much more goodwill throughout the world.

    He has???

    Last time I checked, NK still has nukes...

    Last time I checked, Iran is still obtaining nukes...

    Last time I checked, Russia is still reaping the benefits of our self-gutting...

    Last time I checked, China told the US to "stuff it and oh, by the way, pay your bills"...

    Oh yes and Obama has managed to utterly mangle our relationship with THE most important ally we have in the MidEast..

    What has all this alleged "good will" that Obama has allegedly secured gotten us??

    Not a damn thing...

    The ONLY thing that the world has taken from Obama's many BOW AND APOLOGY tours is that the US doesn't have the balls to do anything more than take out a few Somali pirates with a few snipers...

    There is not ONE US ally that thinks the US will stand with them if the kaa-kaa hits the fan..

    I am curious, though, what would you have him do differently?

    Oh where to start...

    OK, in no particular order..

    LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY..

    If Obama can't secure the borders (which is obvious he can't) then he shouldn't cap on states when they do HIS job for him...

    IS IT A CRIME OR IS IT AN ACT OF WAR??

    What the HELL is with this Mirandizing crap.. You mirandize when you are worried about obtaining a "win" in court..

    You interrogate when you want to save lives..

    Why does Obama always seem to Mirandize??

    WHAT PART OF **NO** DOES OBAMA NOT UNDERSTAND??

    If Congress tells you to take a hike with regards to new laws, you don't use your Agencies to circumvent Congress.

    The ONLY smart thing that Obama has done in his year+ in office is to maintain the monitoring and surveillance apparatus that Bush put into place..

    But he tarnished THAT smart move by pushing for Civilian trials.. Blocks away from the WTC site, fer chreest's sake!!

    What was he thinking??

    I'll tell you, he WASN'T thinking..

    The man is simply not fit to command.. He has ZERO clue on what it takes to lead troops, let alone lead a country...

    Thank the gods, that he is going to be a one-termer...

    It's sad, because it will probably set race relations in this country back a couple decades..

    This man should NEVER have been elected.. PERIOD

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    akadjian wrote:

    *sigh*

    Since it seems you've returned to ranting and raging in lots of CAPITAL LETTERS (oddly enough, what you so often accuse the "hysterical left" of doing), I don't see much point in responding.

    I am glad, however, that Obama hasn't dragged us into another extremely expensive, unjustified, unfunded invasion.

    I wish you peace, Michale. I'll be back after vacation.
    Cheers
    David

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since it seems you've returned to ranting and raging in lots of CAPITAL LETTERS (oddly enough, what you so often accuse the "hysterical left" of doing), I don't see much point in responding.

    It's called emphasis.. It's necessary when typing to convey emphasis on a certain point.

    It certainly is not hysterical in any way shape or form.

    The All Caps were simply headers that were more fully explained...

    I am glad, however, that Obama hasn't dragged us into another extremely expensive, unjustified, unfunded invasion.

    Maybe if he had, we wouldn't be fighting terrorists here on US soil again...

    You can castigate Bush all you want...

    Yet the wisdom of his actions are becoming more and more apparent day by day. Especially when contrasted with the ineptitude of Obama and his minions..

    There, not one captial word!! :D

    Enjoy yer vacation.. I'll be here when you get back.. :D

    Michale.....

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