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Why Democrats have the tea party to thank for their win (+video)

The tea party had a huge impact on the election – but not the one it sought. It kept the Senate in Democratic hands by nominating far-right, losing candidates. It pushed Mitt Romney too far to the right. What Republicans need is their own Bill Clinton. Someone like New Jersey's Chris Christie.

By Jeremy D. Mayer / November 8, 2012

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shakes hands with Tom Preiser, police chief of Harvey Cedars, N.J., on Nov. 7, ahead of the Nor'easter that hit the state Wednesday. Op-ed contributor Jeremy D. Mayer writes: 'Look at America’s collective positive response to the picture of Republican Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, cooperating with Obama on storm relief' related to hurricane Sandy.

Thomas P. CostelloAP

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Arlington, Va.

The tea party was born as an angry response to the person and policies of Barack Hussein Obama. Now that he has been reelected, what can the tea party learn from these very bitter leaves at the bottom of their cup?

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First, that they have had a huge impact on the election – but not the one they sought. They have kept the Senate in Democratic hands by nominating far-right candidates in states where simple conservatives would have won. And they pushed Mitt Romney so far to the right that a badly damaged President Obama beat him handily in the swing states.

In 2010 and 2012, the tea party took over Senate primaries in Delaware, Indiana, Nevada, Missouri, and elsewhere, rejecting sure winners like Sen. Richard Lugar and nominating likely losers. That is the only reason Republicans do not control the Senate today. Harry Reid should have been bankrolling the tea party, because without it, he wouldn’t be the Senate majority leader.

These political revolutionaries tossed many crates of tea overboard, ending the careers of incumbents. It’s just that the majority of those tossed were Republicans.

And the exit polls are clear: Governor Romney didn’t lose because he wasn’t conservative enough. He lost because he couldn’t get enough moderates, independents, women, and Hispanics in states like Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, and New Hampshire. He should have been a natural for some of those voters, based on his background.

But he became a different Romney in the Republican primaries, because of tea party voters. This Romney was trying to “self-deport” Hispanics by the millions, pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, and promised a gigantic, unfunded tax cut that favored the wealthy.

The tea party was also the biggest force keeping Republicans from cooperating with Mr. Obama on any of his major initiatives. Congressional Republicans all knew that their career could easily end if they voted with Obama, even once. A tea party challenger in a primary was a far greater danger than a Democrat in the general election.

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