Crashing The Party: Tea Party-Backed Candidates Spoiling Easy GOP Wins

With the nation gripped by one of the worst economic slumps since the Great Depression and the public’s penchant for more federal intervention waning, Republicans should have an easy road to the House majority come November. However, one thing stands in the way: their candidates.

Across the nation, from Nevada to Florida, Congressional seats that were expected to turn red are back in limbo because moderate Republicans are being pushed aside for more radical Tea Party-backed candidates. The ultra-conservatives’ fiery rhetoric is galvanizing the party base and throwing a wrench into the usually placid waters that are midterm elections.

As expected, the Tea Party favorites have experienced some success by riding the groundswell of anti-establishment sentiment. Rand Paul, son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, is running a tight Senate race against Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky, and Ken Buck is proving to be a formidable opponent for Deomocrat Michael Bennett, who is backed by President Barack Obama, in Colorado.

But the Republican Party’s ascension to majority prominence could be more difficult than expected because many of these outlier candidates have turned into mini-Ralph Naders for the Republicans, spoiling easy wins across the country. As seen in recent primaries, preferred Republican Senate candidates have not survived challenges from within the party in a host of states. Elsewhere, lengthy primaries have left Republicans hobbled for the general election.

In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist was forced to run as an Independent to make way for Tea Party-backed candidate Marco Rubio, whose campaign has stalled in recent weeks. Crist is leading in most polls and, according to rumors, plans to caucus with the Democrats when elected.

A similar story is shaping up in Nevada, where the Republicans found the one candidate who can’t defeat bewildered Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Nancy Pelosi’s spineless Senate counterpart would’ve been an easy target for the Republicans had a more electable candidate emerged.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, Democratic state attorney general Richard Blumenthal’s polished image and chances of becoming a senator nearly evaporated when he misrepresented his military service this summer, but the Republicans put forward former World Wresting Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon. Yes, you read that correctly; the Republican candidate for senate in Connecticut was the CEO of the WWE.

The list goes on and on.

Race after race, whether it’s a House, Senate or gubernatorial race, the story remains the same. A well-financed, well-run campaign that focuses on the economy stands a good chance of beating back the Tea Party tidal wave. The commonly held belief that the anti-incumbency vitriol is going to translate into a massive shift of power in Congress isn’t being reflected in reality.

In July, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said the Republican Party and the Tea Party are actually one homogeneous mass hell-bent on dismantling the federal government. Of course, this was little more than a political gimmick. If it were true, Kaine and his party would be in deep trouble.

The Tea Party has proven to be the best and worst thing to happen to the Republicans since Sarah Palin. Held together by nothing more than fear and paranoia, the Tea Party remains a fragmented group without a concise political strategy to take back the House and Senate like the Republicans did in 1994.

Unfortunately, they may not need one. As long as unemployment remains weak at 9.5 percent, the Democrats will have an uphill battle until November. The pendulum will more than likely swing far enough to the right to restore the Republican majority in the House, but not the Senate — which could have been predicted a decade ago because presidents almost always lose ground during their first midterm election.

What remains to be seen is whether the Tea Party is just another band of angry, paranoid, ill-informed white people or an actual political force to be reckoned with.


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