Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Tea Party and the GOP

Here’s a possibility that will need to be watched closely by political wonks.*
by Charlie Leck

Do they party together – I mean, these people in the Tea Party and those stand-up, bright and solid people in the Republican Party? Just exactly how do they get along?

A lot of us are watching and waiting to see.

A Tea Party candidate, Christine O’Donnell, just beat out an establishment Republican in Delaware in a primary race for the U.S. Senate. That has a lot of establishment folks shaking their collective heads; however, what’s important about this is watching to see who many of those establishment folks will vote for in the general election on November’s first Tuesday.

The same thing is happening here in Minnesota in the gubernatorial race. The Tea Party is solidly behind Tom Emmer, a nutty, knee-jerk Republican who has been endorsed by the Tea Party goddess, Sarah Palin. Emmer also managed to win the GOP endorsement at the State Convention. Here plenty of Republicans are bolting away from Emmer and sliding over to either the Independent Party choice or to the Democrat’s candidate (mostly to the former).

It will tell us a lot about the strength of the Tea Party movement if O’Donnell can win in Delaware and Emmer can win in Minnesota.

Other states to watch are the following:

New York
The Tea Party candidate for Governor, Carl Paladino, toppled the GOP’s guy, Representative Rick Lazio.

The Tea Party took a stand behind Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist, formerly a Republican, will run as an Independent for a Senate seat.

The big victory by Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist and the son of Ron Paul, put him in a race against Democrat Jack Conway for the U.S. Senate. The son of the famous father beat out a traditional GOP candidate, Trey Grayson, in the primary. Since Paul currently is supported by 54% of those polled to only 39% for Conway, it looks like the Tea Party will get its man down there. There is too small an undecided number for Conway to make any kind of big movement up.

With the help of Sara Palin, GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski was knocked off in the primary by the Tea Party’s guy, Joe Miller. In the general election Miller will go up against Democrat Scott McAdams for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Other big races to watch
Watch how the Tea Party’s darling, Sharron Angle, does in Nevada against the current majority leader in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid. Angle knocked off a GOP regular to get in the race. Other interesting Tea Party candidates are in big races in Colorado and Utah.

I’m going to watch the polls on these races for you!
In order to test the strength of the Tea Party, I’m going to watch the pre-election polls in these states to see if the Tea Party can hold traditional Republicans or if there will be significant leakage enough to cause problems for the GOP and the Tea Party. Can Democrats or Independents manage to pull out victories in several of these situations where they normally wouldn’t have won?

Or, is the Tea Party for real?
The other possibility is that the Tea Party movement is for real and there is a sea-change happening in American politics. We’ll know in another 45 days or so, but Hamline University’s professor of Political Science thinks there is a major change going on and that the Tea Party will elect as many as 7 candidates to Congress. In an interview on WCCO Radio (Twin Cities) this morning, he compared it to the political reformation in the 60s and early 70s that was very liberal in nature and was made up of the young. This time he sees the change as being older, wealthier and conservative.

Dan Balz, in a Washington Post article, suggested it might be called a "Civil War" or an "insurrection." He claims the leadership of the Republican Party has lost control. Of the Tea Partiers he said: “They are the leading edge of an anti-Washington movement that will wipe out the Democrats in November and threaten President Obama’s reelection hopes in 2012. [read the entire Washington Post story]

Yet, maybe not! The movement is so angry, so anti-everything, that it does not have a central message. And, the movement is way off center. There is a history in America of elections being won by the party that can most clearly capture the center. The Democrats have a chance to do that in the next six weeks. Balz, in his Washington Post story also sees this as possible (with a big slap of the President at the same time):

“Whatever the outcome, the Tea Party movement’s conservatism could leave the center of the political spectrum open to Obama and the Democrats, if the President is smart enough to reclaim it.”

A KSTP TV5 Eyewitness News poll here in the Twin Cities shows Democrat Mark Dayton with a slim 2 point lead over Republican (and Tea Party endorsed) candidate Tom Emmer.

Dayton (Democrat) 38%
Emmer (Republican) 36%
Horner (Indepen.) 05%
Undecided 04%
Other 05%

Here’s the interesting question about this local election of ours: Horner’s numbers are certainly going to increase – and dramatically so! From where will those voters come? I hope and expect that they will move over from the far too rightish candidate Tom Emmer and the winner of the race will come from either the Democrats or the Independents.

The polls, all across the nation, will be telling us a lot in the next few weeks and I’ll be following them closely and I’ll report them here.

*WONK (according to the World Dictionary): noun… a person who is obsessively interested in a specified subject…


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