Tea par­ty­ers say lack of be­liefs led to GOP loss

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

BOS­TON | Slam­ming the Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment for tap­ping Mitt Rom­ney as its stan­dard-bearer, the co-founder of the na­tion’s largest tea party group said Nov. 7 that the lessons learned from the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will strengthen the grass-roots move­ment, mak­ing it an even more im­por­tant part of the GOP’s fu­ture.

Jenny Beth Martin, of the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots, said Mr. Rom­ney’s loss to Pres­i­dent Obama serves as a stark re­minder that “con­ser­va­tive” can­di­dates lose if they do not fully em­brace the lim­ited-gov­ern­ment prin­ci­ples that the grass-roots move­ment em­bod­ies.

“He was a weak, mod­er­ate, hand-picked can­di­date by the es­tab­lish­ment, the Belt­way elites — and they have picked can­di­dates re­peat­edly for years,” Ms. Martin said. “It does not work, and it is time to find some­one the next time who em­braces our val­ues.”

Democrats, mean­while, seized on the out­come as proof the tea party move­ment has crashed to earth two years af­ter fu­el­ing a Repub­li­can takeover of the House in an elec­tion re­sult Mr. Obama de­scribed as a “shel­lack­ing.”

“Af­ter 2010, Republicans thought they put Democrats on de­fense for­ever, but tonight the tea party wave was re­versed,” said Rep. Steve Is­rael of New York, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “De­spite Republicans’ pre­dic­tions that they would sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand their ma­jor­ity af­ter the wave that swept them in power, like Democrats did in 2008, we didn’t let it hap­pen. We took the fight to Republicans all across the coun­try and won at least 25 Repub­li­can or new seats — beat­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Tea party-backed can­di­dates strug­gled in sev­eral races across the coun­try, from the high-pro­file flops of Se­nate can­di­dates Richard Mour­dock in In­di­ana and W. Todd Akin in Mis­souri, to the ra­zor-thin re­prieve of Michele Bach­mann, founder of the House’s Tea Party Cau­cus, who nar­rowly won re­elec­tion in Min­nesota, and the sur­pris­ing stum­ble of Florida Rep. Allen B. West, the first-term fire­brand who says he will seek a re­count af­ter com­ing up 2,456 votes be­hind Florida Demo­crat Patrick Mur­phy, his Demo­cratic chal­lenger.

Other tea party ca­su­al­ties in­cluded Rep. Joe Walsh of Illi­nois and Rep. Nan Hay­worth of New York.

But tea party de­fend­ers point to the dra­matic, grass-roots-fu­eled win in Texas of Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, one of the move­ment’s most ar­dent and ar­tic­u­late ad­vo­cates of lim­ited gov­ern­ment and fis­cal re­straint.

The prob­lem at the pres­i­den­tial level, they say, is that vot­ers could not see enough of a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the two can­di­dates. So vot­ers went with what they knew.

Ms. Martin also said the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots — which, she said, has swelled from 22 mem­bers in 2009 to more than 40 mil­lion sup­port­ers to­day — was at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage in the presi- mes­sage at the Na­tional Press Club in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., telling re­porters that Mr. Rom­ney’s loss will spell the end of big-gov­ern­ment Repub­li­can­ism.

He said Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus, Sen. Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky and House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio “should be re­placed with lead­ers more in tune with the con­ser­va­tive base of the Repub­li­can Party.”

Mr. Viguerie also said that Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Neil Ne­w­house and Stu­art Stevens “would never be

“He was a weak, mod­er­ate, hand-picked can­di­date by the es­tab­lish­ment, the Belt­way elites — and they have picked can­di­dates re­peat­edly for years. It does not work, and it is time

to find some­one the next time who em­braces our val­ues.”

den­tial race be­cause the Obama and Rom­ney camps have been pre­par­ing for this elec­tion longer than the tea party has been around.

“It is not the death of the tea party,” she said. “We were pro­mot­ing our val­ues of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity, con­sti­tu­tion­ally lim­ited gov­ern­ment and free mar­kets against two cam­paigns that have been cam­paign­ing for at least the past six years. We are new, we are not go­ing away and we will continue to grow and get bet­ter.”

Richard Viguerie, chair­man of Con­ser­va­tiveHQ.com and a tea party sup­porter, de­liv­ered a sim­i­lar hired to run or con­sult on a na­tional cam­paign again, and no one would give a dime to their in­ef­fec­tive su­per PACs, such as Amer­i­can Cross­roads.”

“Mitt Rom­ney’s loss was the death rat­tle of the es­tab­lish­ment Repub­li­can Party,” Mr. Viguerie said. “Far from sig­nal­ing a re­jec­tion of the tea party or grass-roots con­ser­va­tives, the dis­as­ter of 2012 sig­nals the be­gin­ning of the bat­tle to take over the Repub­li­can Party and the op­por­tu­nity to es­tab­lish the party as small-gov­ern­ment, con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­vatism.”

Fu­eled by their de­sire to oust Mr. Obama, many tea party ac­tivists even­tu­ally fell in line be­hind Mr. Rom­ney. Jud­son Phillips, the vo­cal leader of Tea Party Na­tion, en­dorsed the GOP ticket, and Amy Kre­mer, the leader of Tea Party Ex­press, blasted out an email be­fore the elec­tion say­ing the “tea party move­ment is work­ing tire­lessly to­day to get-out-the-vote for Gover­nor Rom­ney and other con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates.”

Along the way, some of the move­ment’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal stars — Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, Marco Ru­bio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah — lined up be­hind the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gover­nor. So did Mrs. Bach­mann and Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who vouched for Mr. Rom­ney on the cam­paign trail.

Mr. King told The Times that he is “re­luc­tant to Mon­day-morn­ing quar­ter­back” the Rom­ney camp — though he did sug­gest that per­haps the cam­paign mis­cal­cu­lated by hold­ing the tea party move­ment at arm’s length out of con­cern the Democrats would use the group against the nom­i­nee.

“How would I run this race if it were me in­stead of Mitt Rom­ney?” he said. “There is no doubt my lan­guage would have been sharper, I would have drawn sharper lines of dis­tinc­tions and taken it to the pres­i­dent in a more di­rect way. But each of us have our own style and I didn’t crit­i­cize Mitt Rom­ney be­fore, so I don’t feel the need to crit­i­cize him to­day.”

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