Tea party 2012 ef­fect stirs GOP trep­i­da­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

Repub­li­cans, once ec­static about the en­ergy gen­er­ated by the 2009 anti-spend­ing tea party up­ris­ing, are grow­ing in­creas­ingly un­easy about the im­pact in 2012 of a move­ment that seems be­yond the con­trol of any­one, in­clud­ing its own lead­ers.

“The na­ture of the tea party and lib­erty move­ment is that there re­ally are very few, if any, au­thor­i­ta­tive spokespersons,” said Ryan Call, Colorado GOP chair­man.

“The fact that the grass-roots move­ment is some­what lead­er­less is one of its strengths, but it also makes the move­ment sus­cep­ti­ble to in­di­vid­u­als or groups co-opt­ing the ‘tea party’ la­bel in in­ap­pro­pri­ate and dam­ag­ing ways, like we saw in the May 24 New York 26th [Con­gres­sional] District spe­cial elec­tion.”

In in­ter­views with The Wash­ing­ton Times, Repub­li­cans said they see two prob­lems ahead.

One is that Democrats ben­e­fit from fake tea party can­di­dates si­phon­ing cru­cial votes from a Repub­li­can can­di­date.

The other is the on­go­ing ten­dency of the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment to in­vite tea party re­bel­lions by pick­ing more-lib­eral can­di­dates, such as Dede Scoz­zafava, who lost an­other Repub­li­can-lean­ing New York con­gres­sional distr ict in a spe­cial elec­tion in 2009.

In last month’s New York elec­tion, Demo­crat Kathy Hochul up­set Repub­li­can Jane Cor­win, 47 per­cent to 43 per­cent.

Mil­lion­aire Jack Davis drained votes from Mrs. Cor­win by spend­ing $3 mil­lion of his own money to gather enough pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures to get him­self on the bal­lot iden­ti­fied as the “tea party” can­di­date, de­spite a his­tory of run­ning as a Demo­crat and his lib­eral stances on spend­ing and other key tea party is­sues.

Some Repub­li­can op­er­a­tives blamed the con­fu­sion on the fail­ure of lo­cal tea party groups to unite be­hind Mrs. Cor­win and to ex­pose Mr. Davis as a fake.

“The lo­cal Repub­li­can Party in that district should have reached out to tea party types to make sure Davis, who got 9 per­cent of the vote, didn’t get the trac­tion he needed in or­der to get that 9 per­cent,” long­time Repub­li­can cam­paign con­sul­tant Kenny Klinge said.

Mr. Klinge pre­dicted the tea party “will be more of hin­drance than an as­set in 2012 if the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship doesn’t reach out to the tea party.”

Rus Thompson, a New York tea party co­or­di­na­tor, said the or­ga­ni­za­tions did unite to use their email lists to ex­pose Mr. Davis as a fraud.

“But we don’t have any money to put out ex­pen­sive mail­ers or run TV ads, and I was so frus­trated with lo­cal news me­dia that kept por­tray­ing Davis as the tea party can­di­date,” Mr. Thompson said.

But New York state GOP Chair­man Ed Cox de­nied that.

“All the tea party groups were not united against Davis, and Davis sup­pressed some a por­tion of our vote that is con­cerned about jobs go­ing abroad,” Mr. Cox said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner wors­ened mat­ters, some Repub­li­can fig­ures said, by fail­ing to men­tion at a fundrais­ing event in the district that Mrs. Cor­win was the only tea party-en­dorsed can­di­date and that Mr. Davis was not the real tea party can­di­date.

“Boehner was in town, but didn’t tell the 500 peo­ple at the Cor­win fundraiser she is en­dorsed by the tea party and is the real con­ser­va­tive in this race,” Mr. Thompson said.

But RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said the RNC did all it could, from “spend­ing money and putting boots on the ground to mak­ing it clear to vot­ers in the district that Davis was not the tea party-en­dorsed can­di­date, Cor­win was.”

Oth­ers were blam­ing Mrs. Cor­win’s own weak­ness as a can­di­date, not­ing that she sab­o­taged her ap­peal to the party base and in­de­pen­dents alike by first back­ing, then back­ing away from, Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medi­care par­tial-pri­va­ti­za­tion plan.

“Ul­ti­mately, it was her that year, even though the groups don’t have the fi­nan­cial means or dis­ci­pline to fight off self-serv­ing usurpers and Demo­cratic sabo­teurs.

Andrew Ian Dodge, a Maine Tea Party Pa­tri­ots leader, is “sure other ju­ris­dic­tions will not be so daft to al­low a life­long Demo­crat who ran three times as a Demo­crat for the of­fice to run as a tea party can­di­date,” re­fer­ring to Mr. Davis.

The Repub­li­can Party in some states, in­clud­ing New York, let county chair­men pick the spe­cial-elec­tion can­di­dates, some of whom have proven to be philo­soph­i­cally in­con­sis­tent. In other cases, the state par­ties have to go with the avail­able can­di­dates, not the ones they wish they could have. All this opens Repub­li­cans to Demo­cratic sab­o­tage.

lost us the 26th District,” one GOP of­fi­cial said.

The prob­lem lies in all of the above, some Repub­li­cans and tea party lead­ers say. Mr. Boehner didn’t men­tion the tea party be­cause, thanks to its dis­or­ga­nized na­ture, there is al­ways the risk that it could blow up in the Repub­li­cans’ face.

Some tea party lead­ers pin their hopes on the ed­u­ca­tional value of ex­pe­ri­ence in avoid­ing Demo­cratic shenani­gans next

Al­though Democrats will “will try to repli­cate the suc­cess of ‘ NY26’ where able, the tea party move­ment is get­ting wise to less-than-gen­uine usurpers, af­ter some re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences,” Mr. Dodge said.

The Repub­li­can Party in some states, in­clud­ing New York, let county chair­men pick the spe­cial-elec­tion can­di­dates, some of whom have proven to be philo­soph­i­cally in­con­sis­tent. In other cases, the state par­ties have to go with the avail­able can­di­dates, not the ones they wish they could have. All this opens Repub­li­cans to Demo­cratic sab­o­tage.

“Davis wanted to run as a Repub­li­can, but seven of our county chairs didn’t think he was a good can­di­date,” New York GOP Chair­man Ed Cox told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “So they went with Jane Cor­win.”

Many con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans hold on to the be­lief that it’s the can­di­date, rather than shenani­gans by Democrats or dis­grun­tled Repub­li­can mav­er­icks, that wins or loses an elec­tion.

These Repub­li­cans say there’s no per­fect de­fense against spoil­ers, but the Repub­li­cans in­vite trou­ble ev­ery time they en­gi­neer the se­lec­tion of a can­di­date of un­cer­tain philo­soph­i­cal per­sua­sion in­stead of let­ting the party rank and file pick the nom­i­nee.

“As long as the party doesn’t hand-pick can­di­dates or play fa­vorites, there won’t be as much of a threat that you’ll get a spoiler,” says Amy Fred­er­ick, pres­i­dent of the 60-Plus As­so­ci­a­tion. “The es­tab­lish­ment vs. grass roots is still very much alive, and there is al­ways a chance of a spoiler get­ting in, but en­sur­ing that all fac­tions had in­put into the can­di­date nom­i­nated by the GOP will min­i­mize those third party/spoiler can­di­dates.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Of­fi­cial Repub­li­can can­di­dates for con­gres­sional seats in New York Jane Cor win (left) and Dede Scoz­zafava both failed spec­tac­u­larly.

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