ChrisWeigant.com

Tea Party's GOP Hostile Takeover Continues

[ Posted Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 – 17:03 PDT ]

The "hostile takeover" of the Republican Party by the Tea Partiers continues apace. Except, of course, where it doesn't. Like much else about the entire Tea Party movement, it's hard to pin down exactly what is going on and what it all means. Which, of course, doesn't stop us pundits from trying! Ahem. But, other than making life interesting for the political chattering classes, the real question is now (as it has always been): will the Tea Partiers wind up being a net positive or a net negative for the Republican Party, especially when it comes to Senate races?

The answer, as with all things Tea Party, is (once again): "it's hard to be sure." We won't really know until after the midterm elections, and at that point so much "spin" will be on the airwaves one might (if one grew up in Kansas, for the sake of argument) be excused the immediate impulse to run for the tornado shelter in the backyard. In other words, even after the elections, the answer is going to depend on who is doing the answering.

What it all boils down to is a very old political calculus: do the voters want 100 percent "pure" candidates, or are they more interested in the candidate with the most "electability" in the general election? This is a teeter-totter which both major American political parties are forced to ride, at times, I should point out. Think of how Joe Lieberman last got elected, on the Democratic side, to see the uncertainties these clashes give rise to.

The only safe bet, in looking at the Tea Partiers versus Republicans, is that after the election very few people are going to do analysis that is in-depth enough to really figure out what happened. Because to truly gauge the impact of the Tea Party, you'd have to examine all the races where Tea Partiers lost the primary to an establishment Republican candidate, as well as those where the Tea Partier won the primary in an upset. Which, as I said, not many people are going to take the time to do.

There are really five main ways these races could shake out. The first two would be a Republican establishment candidate (likely an incumbent) who fends off a Tea Party challenge in the primary, and then goes on to either lose or win against a Democrat in November. The second two would flip the primary results -- a Tea Partier wins the primary, and subsequently either wins or loses to a Democrat in the general election. And the fifth possibility is the "wild card" race where the loser of the primary (whether a Tea Partier or Republican) mounts a third-party bid. Actually, I guess that's really six choices, or even eight, depending on how you count. You can see why nobody's going to bother to do such analysis post-election-night.

Yesterday's results really only showed one thing with any clarity -- Sarah Palin is definitely going to run for president. She's been testing out her clout in the primaries, and whether her clout wins some races or loses some races, the big honking important thing (to her, at any rate) is that everybody in the media is raptly paying attention. Major news sites not only have their traditional red/blue maps of the individual races to see the state of the polling, most of them have also now added a "Sarah Palin pick record" map as well. If you think about that for a minute, it really is kind of stunning. Nobody else in politics, that I can remember, has ever gotten the media to examine their "picks" with such microscopic detail -- Democrat or Republican. But aside from the elevated media profile all of this gives to Palin, it also means that any of Sarah's picks (be they "Mama Grizzlies" or not) who actually win their general election will be in Palin's debt on the "political backscratching" scale of things. This is called building a base of support within the party. And building such a base is a crucial step towards gaining the party's presidential nomination next time around.

But, Palin aside, let's get back to the Tea Partiers and their effect so far on the midterm elections. Republican incumbents, in this so-called "anti-incumbent year" are still steadily chalking up primary wins over Tea Partiers in many states. The most striking of these last night was in Arizona, where Senator John McCain successfully fended off a Tea Party candidate (Sarah Palin, wisely, chose her former running mate in this race, rather than the upstart Tea Partier). But (proving that even when you try to put Palin aside, she just keeps on rearing her head, so to speak) Palin may pull off a stunning victory in Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski looks (at this point, this will likely take a while to finalize) like she has lost her primary to a Palin-endorsed Tea Party upstart. As I said, whenever looking for easy answers to the Tea Party, mostly what you wind up finding is contradiction, on a state-by-state level, mostly due to the Tea Partiers' inherent decentralized nature.

But most Republican incumbents and establishment candidates who have won their primaries will likely win their general elections as well, in solidly-red states. There may be a race where this isn't so, but I have yet to notice one. McCain, for instance, will likely coast to re-election. So there's not much to be learned from the establishment Republicans one way or the other, I suppose.

The Tea Partiers who have won their primaries are much more interesting. The states they're competing in can be broken down into "so solid red a ficus plant would win the general election if it had an (R) next to its name," and "truly a battleground state where the nominee is going to make a difference, one way or the other."

An example of the first would be Utah, one of the first states where Tea Partiers "claimed a scalp" in the primary season. In states such as these, winning the primary is, essentially, winning the election. Alaska, if the Tea Partier winds up winning the Senate nomination there, is another of these states, where a Democrat (any Democrat) has to be seen as the longest of shots this year (and, in Utah's case, "any year").

Then there are states which really (by all rights) should be comfortably in the Republican column this year, but due to having nominated Tea Party candidates, now are seen as competitive by Democrats. Such states include Nevada, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

In Nevada, Harry Reid should (by all rights) be trailing his Republican opponent by 10-15 points in the polls (Harry's approval ratings in the state are pretty dismal). Instead, Reid is either neck-and-neck or actually leading Sharron Angle in the polls. His ad campaign would be a good one for other Democrats to emulate this year, as it consists of showing Angle quotes, and then concluding: "Angle is TOO EXTREME for Nevada."

Kentucky may be the biggest win for Tea Partiers, if Rand Paul pulls it out. This is the most likely outcome today, but again, this state is "in play" when by all rights it should be an easy pickup for Republicans. Colorado and Pennsylvania races are similarly a lot closer than they really should be.

This is what the inside-the-Beltway establishment Republicans have always been afraid of when confronted by the Tea Partiers. Sure, the Tea Party folks generate enthusiasm out the wazoo for the party's base voters, but they do have a tendency to take the political rhetoric a bit farther than independent suburban voters may be all that comfortable with. The question remains whether the additional base enthusiasm will be enough to counter the weakened support from independents which Republicans might otherwise have won over this year.

The last category (where a third-party bid complicates the race) is the most wide-open, although so far it seems to have only happened (in a major way) in two races: Florida's Senate race, and the governor's race in Colorado. In Florida, Charlie Crist was essentially forced out of the Republican Party by a Tea Party upstart. Reading the tea leaves before the primaries, Crist announced an independent bid (which guarantees him a spot on the general election ballot, and sidesteps the primary itself). The bad blood between Crist and the party may mean that, should he win, he will join the Democratic caucus in the Senate, and not the Republicans. This would, in effect, hand one more Senate vote to Democrats, in a year where they're not slated to "pick up" many such votes (Crist's may wind up being the only one, in fact). But Crist is so popular, and the Democratic candidate is so weak, that Crist may actually win in November. In Colorado, the independent bid of Tom Tancredo may effectively split the Republican vote for governor, and wind up handing the race to the Democrat.

Meaning, in Florida, a moderate might win and provide a pickup seat for Democrats; and in Colorado, Republicans may be throwing away what could be an easy governorship by intra-party squabbling.

None of this is written in stone, however. Things change, and the election season has yet to truly move into high gear. There are likely to be some high-profile Tea Party wins this November, and likely a few true fire-breathing Tea Partiers in both houses of the next Congress. Which is, of course, where it gets interesting (for policy wonks), and either dreadfully boring or downright disillusioning (for political neophytes) -- the hard, cold reality of how slow things move in Congress, and how incremental any changes are likely to be. Even if we wind up with Senator Rand Paul (or even Senator Sharron Angle), Republicans aren't going to all immediately rally around the crazier of their policy ideas (such as fiddling with existing Constitutional Amendments, or abolishing whole federal departments or programs).

The biggest wedge for Democrats (who should be using this much more effectively than they have, to date) is going to be the Bush tax cut debate which will happen before this November's election. Because the Tea Party's main two goals are mutually exclusive -- cutting taxes and balancing the budget. But that's a column for another day (Friday, perhaps).

The answer to the basic question of how the Tea Party's hostile takeover of the Republican Party is going to play out, both this year and beyond, remains to be seen. The results may be murky, where the Tea Partiers ride to victory in some states, but scare off independents so much in others that Republicans wind up losing races they should have won. The media will go along with the whirlwind of spin which will inevitably ensue, in one direction or the other. But the real question (that only history will be able to answer) is whether the Tea Partiers will be seen in hindsight as a revolutionary political force within the Republican Party, or perhaps no more than Mad Hatters from a different kind of tea party.

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

-- Chris Weigant

 

27 Comments on “Tea Party's GOP Hostile Takeover Continues”

  1. [1] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    ...the real question is now (as it has always been): will the Tea Partiers wind up being a net positive or a net negative for the Republican Party, especially when it comes to Senate races?

    The answer, as with all things Tea Party, is (once again): "it's hard to be sure."

    ROFL. Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy your writing style?

    The more I observe, the more confident I am that I nailed this awhile ago with that Gallup poll of "traditionalists." When you come right down to it, I think Tea Partiers are simply a 24%-ish group within this 53% majority, who are seeking to move back to basic American values, which would naturally include Constitutional values:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/123326/Renewed-Desire-Gov-Promote-Traditional-Values.aspx

    [excerpt] Americans' views of the proper government role in promoting traditional values had moved in a more liberal direction since 2005, to the point that last year, as many said the government should not promote traditional values as said it should. If that trend had continued, 2009 would have marked the first time Gallup found more Americans preferring that the government refrain from actively promoting traditional values. Instead, Americans' attitudes reverted to a more conservative point of view on the matter. Now, Americans favor the government's promoting traditional values by an 11-point margin, similar to the double-digit margins favoring that view through much of the prior two decades.

  2. [2] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    This is what the inside-the-Beltway establishment Republicans have always been afraid of when confronted by the Tea Partiers. Sure, the Tea Party folks generate enthusiasm out the wazoo for the party's base voters, but they do have a tendency to take the political rhetoric a bit farther than independent suburban voters may be all that comfortable with. The question remains whether the additional base enthusiasm will be enough to counter the weakened support from independents which Republicans might otherwise have won over this year.

    The interesting thing is that there really isn't any evidence of weakened Indie support in the polls, where Tea Party candidates are concerned. You liberals seem to be the only ones reeling in horror. Hahahaha.

  3. [3] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    But Crist is so popular, and the Democratic candidate is so weak, that Crist may actually win in November.

    I don't know about that. Rubio won his primary with 85% of the vote and he's about five-to-eight points ahead of Crist in likely voters polls. Again, don't hold me to anything I say about Florida or any other 3-way race (which I hate), but Florida has a lot of Indies, and Indies seem to be leaning Right all around the nation. Plus, I don't see Dems getting behind Republican flip-flopping Crist. I think they're gonna get behind Meek or stay home.

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    But (proving that even when you try to put Palin aside, she just keeps on rearing her head, so to speak) Palin may pull off a stunning victory in Alaska, where Senator Lisa Murkowski looks (at this point, this will likely take a while to finalize) like she has lost her primary to a Palin-endorsed Tea Party upstart.

    Murkowski's opponent, Joe Miller, is the spittin' image of Chuck Norris.

    How could he NOT win!?? :D

    Michale.....

  5. [5] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Murkowski's opponent, Joe Miller, is the spittin' image of Chuck Norris.

    When I saw a picture of him, I thought the same thing :)

    "Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch. He decides what time it is."

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    "Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch. He decides what time it is."

    That's a good one! :D

    My fav...

    When the Boogieman goes to bed he checks the closet and under the bed for Chuck Norris

    :D

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Interesting note.

    Joe Biden is quoted as saying that the direction of the country is headed in the right direction...

    I guess that makes Biden part of the 23% of Americans who think the same thing...

    Or, given the likely outcome of the upcoming mid-terms, maybe Biden meant that the country is headed in the "Right" direction.. :D

    Michale.....

  8. [8] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Or, given the likely outcome of the upcoming mid-terms, maybe Biden meant that the country is headed in the "Right" direction.. :D

    Hahahaha. Speaking of crazy Uncle Joe...

    http://www.chris11962.com/blog/files/a65206acd3559a2c120f2ef9dc32b7d8-245.html

    ...former Virginia Gov. Wilder raises an interesting question re: Obama getting himself a veep who's electable in 2016. But I think Obama would probably wanna wait and see if he, himself, is electable in 2012 before switching out veeps to line up for a 2016 run.

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Trust on Issues
    Voters Now Trust Republicans More On All 10 Key Issues

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/trust_on_issues

    OUCH....

    That's just GOTTA hurt.... :D

    Michale.....

  10. [10] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    OUCH....
    That's just GOTTA hurt.... :D

    Especially health care: 48% to 40%. Oh, the irony. 'D

  11. [11] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris, interesting article:

    Party-less Charlie Crist faces harsh reality
    http://www.chris11962.com/blog/files/f98fe00df0f6320295eefc4daa25fd9f-251.html

  12. [12] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    "Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch. He decides what time it is."

    Hahahaha. I read a bunch of these, only it was "Jack Bauer" in place of Chuck Norris:

    Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.

    If you are still verbally capable of telling Jack Bauer that he is hurting you, then trust me, he isn't.

    'D

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    If you are still verbally capable of telling Jack Bauer that he is hurting you, then trust me, he isn't.

    Oh, now, I REALLY like that one!! :D

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    The city of Los Angeles once named a street after Jack Bauer in gratitude for his saving the city several times. They had to rename it after people kept dying when they tried to cross the street. No one crosses Jack Bauer and lives.

    :D

    Michale.....

  15. [15] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    As all surprises would have it, some nice former contestant on a reality show was arrested in a terrorist plot to attack Canada.

    The three men arrested are accused of conspiring with at least three others — identified as James Lara, Rizgar Alizadeh and Zakaria Mamosta — and other “persons unknown”, who have been at one time or another located in Canada, Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Pakistan, to facilitate a “terrorist activity” between February 2008 and Aug. 24 of this year.

    Alizadeh, who is believed to be an Iranian Kurd, is also charged with making or having an explosive device in his possession with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group. He is also charged with directly or indirectly making available property or financial services knowing that they will be used to benefit a terrorist group. Those offences are alleged to have occurred between September 2009 and Aug. 24.

    Alizadeh, who had a curly beard and wore a brown skull cap over his long curly brown hair, and Ahmed, sporting a full beard and wearing a tan, long-sleeved shirt, appeared briefly in an Ottawa courtroom Thursday before being returned to jail pending an appearance by video next Wednesday.

    Sher, meanwhile, was arrested in London, Ont. where he had recently moved. He is a doctor who graduated from McGill University medical school in 2005. In 2006 he was in Pakistan during the relief efforts after an earthquake in Kashmir.

    A Khurram Sher was a contestant on the CTV reality program Canadian Idol.
    http://www.chris11962.com/blog/files/f6edd32ab2d91df2bbe0fb99efe89bce-255.html

    I'm gonna take a really wild guess that the Canadian Idol screeners mistook him for some nice "moderate" fellow.

  16. [16] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    They had to rename it after people kept dying when they tried to cross the street. No one crosses Jack Bauer and lives.

    Hahahahhaha!! Love it. Am I only the "24" fan around here? Who else watched it? C'mon, outta your closets, all of ya.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Am I only the "24" fan around here? Who else watched it? C'mon, outta your closets, all of ya.

    I think it's a given that I am a fan... :D

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Me, too!

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    And the news just keeps getting worser and worser...

    Weak GDP raises stakes for Obama, Fed
    Growth figures are expected to show the economy is almost at a standstill, but the government is running out of options to rebuild momentum.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-econ-gdp-20100827,0,4011261.story

    Michale.....

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    Speaking of the Tea Party...

    Tea Party Spells KKK, Rights Leader Says
    Black Leaders Outraged Over 'Restoring Honor' Rally

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/tea-party-compared-kkk-rev-walter-fauntroy/story?id=11489233

    Another of the hysterical Left who states that the entire Tea Party is racist.

    Interesting thing about that report.

    This Fauntroy guy claims that the "same people" who cut the sound system cables at MLK's speech are the "same people" who are having the "Restoring Honor" rally...

    Get that?? The "same people"....

    I would love to see the evidence of THAT accusation, eh?? :D

    Further, Fauntroy is "outraged" that the Right would have a rally at the site of MLK's "I HAVE A DREAM" speech.. Yet this same guy sees a mosque a scant two blocks from the site of the worst attacks on US Soil by Islamic terrorists..

    Oh, the irony....

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Fauntroy.

    Michale.....

  21. [21] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Mary Frances Berry: Tea Party not really racist but so what?
    [excerpt] “Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness.”

    Aside from the morality of knowingly advancing a blatantly false line of thinking, Berry and her cohort’s embrace of race-baiting has real implications for race relations as R. Dozier Gray, a member of the conservative black group Project 21 put it in a statement about Berry’s remarks:

    “This willful and purposeful use of the race card for nothing more than political gain is toxic to race relations, and Mary Frances Berry must know that. But she evidently does not care. Based on her comment, political posturing takes primacy over whatever real issues regarding race that she might pretend are her calling cards. I have seen this all before. I find it shameful.
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/mary-frances-berry-racism-charges-against-tea-party-an-effective-strategy-99579434.html

  22. [22] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Holy smokes. Tell us how you really feel, Mort...

    Zuckerman: The Most Fiscally Irresponsible Gov’t in U.S. History
    http://www.chris11962.com/blog/files/f987d80e4db9381ffb97f19204c7142e-271.html

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    “This willful and purposeful use of the race card for nothing more than political gain is toxic to race relations, and Mary Frances Berry must know that. But she evidently does not care. Based on her comment, political posturing takes primacy over whatever real issues regarding race that she might pretend are her calling cards. I have seen this all before. I find it shameful."

    And therein lies the crux of the problem with Democrats.

    As I have stated time and time and time again, there really isn't any difference between the hysterical Right and the hysterical Left...

    The Left likes to pretend it is above all that, but as we see the personification of the Democratic Party in Mary Frances Berry, the Left can be as despicable, deceitful and downright nasty as the Right.

    I wonder how many on the LEFT will condemn Mary Frances Berry...

    I am guessing 2 people will... 3 tops...

    Michale.....

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    Holy smokes. Tell us how you really feel, Mort.

    I have just been reading that article... Here is an excerpt below:

    Who could be surprised since millions of voters have discovered that for themselves? As one realizes the morning after the night before, there is an unavoidable penalty for excess. It is unnerving to wake up and learn that you have a mortgage on your home that exceeds the value of the property. Or, and too often both, you have a credit card line that you cannot repay and the issuer has you on the rack for ever bigger compound interest on the debt. The lesson has been well and truly learned that debt catches up with you. Millions understand that they are just going to have to find a way to live within their means—and then still eke out some savings to pay down debt. And there are well over 14 million Americans without a paying job, so the level of discontent is very high. Just how are they going to regain control of their lives?

    Now, compare that with this:

    "We Have to Go Spend Money to Keep From Going Bankrupt"
    -Vice President Joe Biden

    And people wonder why the Democratic Party is going to get trounced this election...

    Michale.....

  25. [25] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    "We Have to Go Spend Money to Keep From Going Bankrupt"
    -Vice President Joe Biden

    LOL. Has the White House pulled him off the public stage yet? Or is he still out there, saying stuff like that?

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    Oh, that was from a while ago..

    It just stuck with me how insane such a sentiment is..

    I think Mort mentioned it in his article as well.

    The first rule of financial management. When you are in a hole, STOP DIGGING...

    Such logical advice.. Yet it just flys over the head of the Obama Administration..

    Obama et al not only did NOT stop digging, they brought in heavy equipment to dig deeper, faster...

    It's no wonder this economy of ours is about to implode...

    Michale.....

  27. [27] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Will wonders never cease. Stu's gone and caught himself a clue:

    There isn’t a lot of consensus in Washington, D.C., but party operatives on both sides of the aisle as well as members of the media seem to be united in their distrust of polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports. But with new polling by a Democratic firm in three key states showing identical results, is it time for a re-evaluation of Rasmussen?

    The most common criticism is that Rasmussen’s numbers favor Republicans. Because of the proliferation of Rasmussen’s polling, the firm’s numbers inevitably come up in discussion of any competitive statewide race in the country but are then quickly dismissed.

    That might be unwise now...

    http://rothenbergpoliticalreport.com/news/article/is-rasmussen-better-than-its-reputation

    I wonder when our Leftie friends are going to finally figure out the difference between a Registered Voters poll (which shows more Dems than Republicans, because there are more registered Dems than registered Republicans in America) and a Likely Voters poll (which shows more Republicans then Dems, because more Republicans than Dems actually show up and vote, derrrr).

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