This year is proving to be a successful one for Tea Party candidates. They have successfully defeated many establishment liberal Republicans in high-profile Congressional and Senatorial Republican primary races around the country. This happened despite the establishment Republican leadership pouring money into primaries backing the more liberal candidates. The most stunning upset yet took place on September 14 in Delaware where Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell, who has never served in political office, defeated National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) backed and nine-term liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle in the Republican Senate primary.
Last month, unknown Tea Party candidate Joe Miller beat incumbent liberal Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaskan Republican Senate primary. Tea Party candidate Ken Buck beat NRSC-backed establishment candidate and former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton in the Republican Senate primary in Colorado. In June, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle beat establishment-backed candidate Sue Lowden in Nevada’s Republican Senate primary. Tea Party candidate Mike Lee beat liberal Republican incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah. In May, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul beat liberal Republican Trey Grayson in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary. Taxpayer champion Pat Toomey easily won the Republican primary in Pennsylvania, after liberal Republican Arlen Specter realized he would lose the primary and switched parties. In April, liberal Republican Charlie Crist dropped out of the Republican Party and announced he would be running as an Independent for the Senate in Florida, realizing he could not beat the far more conservative candidate Marco Rubio.
A major reason for these victories is Sarah Palin’s willingness to buck the Republican Party establishment and endorse these candidates. Almost every candidate who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin has won their primary election. Another influential voice has is Sen. Jim DeMint, ranked by the American Conservative Union as the most conservative Senator in the Senate. Palin and DeMint’s support for O’Donnell no doubt put her over the top. DeMint also endorsed Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey against the NRSC and Republican establishment which had endorsed the more liberal Republican candidates. Thirdly, much credit is due to the Tea Party Express, whose supporters have poured thousands of dollars into several of these races.
Now that the primary elections are over, the Republican Party is supposed to call for unity and ask all Republicans to rally around all victorious Republican candidates, including the Tea Party candidates. Bizarrely, a couple of the losing liberal Republicans are refusing, and the Republican establishment is balking. Republicans voters have spoken in the primary, yet there are efforts being made to thwart their well. Usually liberal establishment Republicans are the first ones to demand that Republicans unite and monolithically support a Republican candidate, citing the so-called Buckley Rule. They rely upon a statement William F. Buckley, Jr. once made about supporting the most conservative candidate who is electable. In reality, William F. Buckley, Jr., made such a statement only in reference to a specific election, to explain why he was supporting Richard Nixon for President over Barry Goldwater. Furthermore, the primary is over, and there is only one Republican left in these races. The argument is sour grapes.
Citing the so-called Buckley Rule is a ploy by liberal Republicans to discredit and eliminate more conservative candidates in the primaries. It is true that conservative Republicans may sometimes poll worse than liberal Republicans in general elections because there are Democrats and independents voting. However, elections are widely volatile. Anything can happen between a primary and general election.
So far, the naysayers are proving to be false alarmists. The latest polling on these Senate races reveals that Ken Buck in Colorado is leading his Democrat opponent Michael Bennet by five points. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania is also leading his Democrat opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak, by five points. Rand Paul is leading Democrat Paul Conway in Kentucky by two points. In Wisconsin, Ron Johnson is leading Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold by eleven points, and in Utah, Mike Lee is leading the Democrat by a whopping 27 points. Marco Rubio in Florida is leading both Charlie Crist and Democrat opponent Kendrick Meek by double digits.
Only a couple of these races will be close. Polling in the Sharron Angle race against Democrat incumbent and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shows both candidates in a dead heat. Christine O’Donnell is trailing her Democrat opponent in the latest polls, but the gap is narrowing. If the Republican Party puts as much effort into helping her win the general election as they did defeating her in the primary election, she could pull it off.
Unfortunately, the NRSC is already proving it cannot be trusted to rally around the winning candidates now that the primary is over. Immediately after O’Donnell won, the NRSC announced it would not be supporting her in the general election. It later reversed that decision and contributed the maximum amount directly permitted to her, $42,000. However, there is no word yet on whether it will spend any additional money on an independent expenditure. If any Senate race in the country needs Republican financial support, it is this race.
Mike Castle, the liberal Republican who lost to O’Donnell, has refused to endorse O’Donnell. Now there is speculation he may run a write-in campaign as an independent. If he does, it would no doubt ensure her loss to the Democrat, considering how tight the race is.
Defeated Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is also threatening to spoil the race she lost, refusing to concede. After losing the primary to Miller, she announced she will run as an independent write-in candidate, claiming that the election was “hijacked” by “extremists.” She cannot possibly win -- the odds are hopelessly stacked against write-in candidates. But she could take away enough votes from Joe Miller to allow the Democrat to win. So far, Miller is leading by double digits over Murkowski and the Democrat in the race, Scott McAdams.
The Republican Senate establishment is enabling Murkowski to act as a spoiler. After hearing Murkowski was going to run as an independent write-in candidate, Senate Republicans met to discuss removing her from her position as the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But according to an alert sent out today from DeMint, the Senators caved in and allowed her to keep her powerful position – despite the fact she is no longer running as a Republican.
DeMint is taking further corrective steps to support candidates he believes are not getting enough support in the general election from the NRSC, particularly Sharron Angle and Ken Buck. He also refuses to transfer any of his money to the NRSC, not wanting it to go to liberal Republican Senatorial candidates he opposed in the primary such as Mark Steven Kirk in Illinois, Roy Blunt in Missouri, and Carly Fiorina in California. DeMint believes the NRSC is contributing to the likelihood that O’Donnell will lose the general election by not providing her with enough support. In a statement released by his PAC, he wrote, “I want to thank the thousands of freedom-loving Americans who helped fill the fundraising gap left by national Republicans who’ve all but given up on this race.” His PAC has already raised $174,000 for O’Donnell since the primary election.
A message must be sent to the establishment sore losers. If they go ahead and run in the general election as spoilers, causing conservative Tea Party candidates to lose, it will not be forgotten. Their motive is to move the Republican Party to the left, to have it become more like the Democrat Party. The Republican Party has been drifting to the left enough already; the expansion of the federal government through TARP bailouts and programs like No Child Left Behind were implemented under Republican president George W. Bush. It is the Tea Party candidates who are adhering to the Republican Party and its principles, who have the only real hope of defeating Democrat programs. Whereas the liberal Republicans challenging the Republican Party’s wins in the primary election and choosing to run as independents against the GOP are hurting the Party.
With the emergence of the Tea Parties, the NSRC and its equivalent on the Congressional side, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), can no longer brazenly pick and choose more liberal Republicans over conservative ones. The Tea Parties have empowered Sarah Palin to stand up to the establishment, enabling the more conservative candidates to win with her endorsement, and they have strengthened the influence of conservatives like Senator DeMint. Prior to this election, the NSRC and the NRCC were the only big money elephants in the room. Now, there is Palin, DeMint’s conservative Senatorial PAC and the Tea Party Express, which has also poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into these races.
The Republican establishment and its sore losers better not spoil the election for the conservative Tea Party candidates who legitimately won Republican primary elections, overthrowing the will of Republicans who voted in the primaries. If they do, the new big elephants in the room must let everyone know exactly what they did next election.