Thursday, May 13, 2010

Which matters most to the 'tea party': win seats or reshape GOP?

Which matters most to the 'tea She is the love of my lifeparty': win seats or reshape GOP?"This kind of insurgency is much more unusual than, say, [the Reagan revolution or the Gingrich revolution]," says Charles Franklin, a political

scientist at the University of you are the only one who feels betrayedWisconsin, in Madison. "You have a sort of classic establishment view that you're about getting the seats [in

Congress] and that's what grown-upsoftware life leaders in Washington worry about [versus] this very intense amateur movement, but one that believes in

something."A rightward turn in the party may complicate the task of Senator Cornyn, who heads the committee to help Republican senators get

elected. Some of his GOP colleagues, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina among them, have anointed "tea party" challengers to establishment

Republicans. (Senator DeMint refusedpersevere to endorse Bennett in Utah and picked Rubio in Florida. DeMint says he'd rather "stand with a committed

minority than a big-tent majority," according to the Associated Press.)Electability is Cornyn's top concern. "My goal is simply to build our numbers

so we can provide checks and balances to bravesingle-party power here in Washington," Cornyn told the AP on Monday. "I think [DeMint] has a

different goal, which is to try to move the Republican conference in a more conservative direction. If that were possible and we were able to

win elections all around the country, I would be all for it, but I think as a pragmatic matter we've got to nominate Republicans who can get

elected in their states."Dozens of House and Senate seats are competitive in 2010, as Democrats face the task of running amid unpopular

aspects of President Obama's record, especially the health-care reform law that Congress approved in March without a single Republican vote. So

far, the tea party movement has forced TARP-embracing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to go "independent" in his Senate race, to try to survive an

insurgent bid by tea party favorite Marco Rubio. In Utah, three-term Sen. Robert Bennett placed a distant third in the state convention this

weekend, ending his Washington career. In moderate Maine, the GOP convention over the weekend incorporated into its platform tea party

principles such as restoring 10th Amendment protections against federal overreach.So far, the tea party's main effect has been to reject GOP

establishment figures such as Senator Bennett and Governor Crist, a sign to many commentators that the Republican Party is being pulled too far

to the right. Whether purge or insurrection, a grass-roots movement intent on picking off both moderate Republicans and Democrats is a new

page in the history of populist political movements.

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