Tea Party losing nominations but winning on some major positions
by Don McKee
May 12, 2014 12:00 AM | 2184 views | 4 4 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tea party candidates have come up short in a string of campaigns, notably the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, where establishment Republican Thom Tillis won the nomination last week.

In a field of eight primary candidates, Tillis won without a runoff, turning back his main challengers, obstetrician Greg Brannon — backed by tea party icon Rand Paul — and Baptist minister Mark Harris — supported by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. In contrast, Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, had the backing of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, along with funding by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, the super political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove, a GOP strategist pushing “mainstream” candidates.

Now, Tillis will face off against sitting Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, considered one of the more vulnerable Democrats in the battle for control of the Senate this year. One of the biggest issues is the national health care law — “Obamacare” — which is as highly unpopular in North Carolina as it is in Georgia.

The theme of news reporting on the North Carolina outcome has been the defeat of tea party-backed candidates. But the real story is while the tea party has lost elections, it has won the philosophical battle within the Republican Party to a large extent. As Theda Skocpol, Harvard political scientist and co-author of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” told a reporter: “Tea party candidates are going to lose the nominations but win the policy stands.”

The party “remains enthralled to these people,” Skocpol said.

In order to fend off tea party challenges, Republican incumbents and mainstream candidates have adopted tea party positions on some key issues. Example: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, facing fierce tea party opposition, showed up at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year brandishing a rifle. In the North Carolina race, Tillis emphasized his alignment with tea party opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Incidentally, McConnell backed Tillis in his race.

Another major factor influencing both establishment-type candidates and Republican voters is the electability of candidates, thanks to the well-publicized foot-in-the-mouth problems of some tea party candidates in the past. Such problems cost Republicans a bunch of Senate seats and probable control of the chamber in recent election cycles.

“We squandered, collectively, five Senate seats over the last two cycles because we had fundamentally unelectable candidates,” Rob Engstrom, national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told a Tampa newspaper last week as the chamber pumped big money into the Tillis campaign.

That kind of thinking is reflected in Georgia, where two establishment types — Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue — lead the GOP field in the Senate primary race.

It boils down to tea party forces losing the battle to nominate candidates but winning the war on moving Republican candidates to the right. Therefore, it makes sense for tea party voters to support GOP nominees in November and not sit out the election or opt for third party candidates.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
May 13, 2014
To my knowledge, the Tea Party seeks fiscal/financial responsibility. I would like to be enlightened as to what they are doing that creates an unfavorable opinion of them.
May 13, 2014
Tricorn hats, government shut downs and Ted Cruz for starters.
May 13, 2014
The GOP non-Tea Party candidates may be adopting Tea Party stances, but as the Chairman of the National Chamber of Commerce said last week, if the GOP does not work on a immigration solution with the Democrats,then the GOP will not have a man in the White House or a majority in the House or Senate anytime soon.

I am at least grateful to know where the GOP candidates stand on immigration, abortion, gay marriage and healthcare programs so I can vote. The GOP can keep up these stances and their nominees will continue to loose races.
May 12, 2014
National Review On-line, March, 2014:

According to the most recent Gallup poll, just 30 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the (tea party) movement, the lowest level in its history.
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