GOP es­tab­lish­ment trumps tea party in early pri­maries

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The GOP es­tab­lish­ment has rat­tled off a se­ries of vic­to­ries in the open­ing rounds of the 2014 pri­mary sea­son, send­ing a strong re­minder of the power its web of fundrais­ers, donors and king­mak­ers wield at the bal­lot box and leav­ing the tea party look­ing for its first sig­na­ture win of the elec­tion year.

That is a stark de­par­ture from the 2010 and 2012 elec­tion cy­cles, when groups such as the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and Karl Rove’s su­per PAC Amer­i­can Cross­roads stayed on the side­lines as some tea party-backed can­di­dates won nom­i­na­tion races only to lose them to Democrats in gen­eral elec­tion races that an­a­lysts deemed winnable.

“You are see­ing that main­stream, cen­ter­right, Repub­li­cans aren’t go­ing to be sur­prised in low turnout off year elec­tions by tea party can­di­dates,” said for­mer Rep. Steve LaTourette, who now heads the Main Street Part­ner­ship, a group of mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans. “So what you did see in the pri­maries is fire be­ing fought with fire.”

Mr. LaTourette said sev­eral of the tea party can­di­da­cies that once had high hopes — in­clud­ing Matt Bevin in Ken­tucky and Mil­ton Wolf in Kansas — are pe­ter­ing out, leav­ing the grass-roots move­ment with fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick off Repub­li­cans.

“As each of the pri­maries goes by, they get more des­per­ate to get a scalp,” he said.

Kevin Broughton, spokesman for the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots Cit­i­zens Fund, told The Times that his group was dis­ap­pointed with the pri­mary re­sults, and said that the na­tional me­dia seems to have for­got­ten that Curt Claw­son, tea party backed can­di­date, won the spe­cial elec­tion pri­mary last month for Florida’s 19th Con­gres­sional District seat.

“It is too early to be danc­ing on our graves,” Mr. Broughton said. “There is a lot of foot­ball to be played. We are go­ing to keep do­ing what we do, and that is mo­bi­liz­ing and ed­u­cat­ing our mem­bers and get­ting them on the street and get­ting them on the phones.”

Chris Wil­son, a GOP poll­ster, warned against read­ing too much into the early pri­mary re­sults.

“The breath­less dec­la­ra­tions on the death of the tea party are so pre­ma­ture it’s laugh­able,” Mr. Wil­son said, claim­ing that the con­tests did not fea­ture any clear tea party ver­sus es­tab­lish­ment con­tests.

He said the next big in­di­ca­tor will come in the June 3 Mis­sis­sippi pri­mary, where the es­tab­lish­ment has lined up be­hind Sen. Thad Cochran, and tea party aligned groups are back­ing state Sen. Chris McDaniel. He also pointed to the June 24 pri­mary race to re­place re­tir­ing Ok­la­homa Sen. Tom Coburn, where tea par­ty­ers are ral­ly­ing be­hind state House Speaker T.W. Shan­non.

An­a­lysts agreed it was too soon to say the tea party had run its course.

“You can’t write the tea party obit­u­ary yet,” said for­mer Vir­ginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, who served as chair­man of the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee from 1998 to 2002, then later ran the Main Street Part­ner­ship. “But clearly the tea party groups did not per­form up to ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Mr. Davis said the tea party is a po­tent and im­por­tant part of the Repub­li­can coali­tion, but sim­ply out­num­bered by the es­tab­lish­ment wing of the party. “There are more of us then there are of them,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. LaTourette said that his mes­sage to the tea party is that the Repub­li­can party wel­comes them. “But we need you to work within the con­fines of the Repub­li­can party and not try to blow it up and make it equal to the tea party,” he said.

Some polls have shown that the clout of the tea party is wan­ing and that the more fa­mil­iar that vot­ers — in­clud­ing self­de­scribed mod­er­ate and con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans — get with the tea party, the less they like it.

That could help ex­plain why Florida Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, was so ea­ger to make the case Wed­nes­day that the tea party “has won the civil war that has been rag­ing in­side the Repub­li­can Party.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.