On display at raucous Republican debate Monday night was the tea party itself
The Republican debate, which was co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express and seemed at times like a sporting event, got out the tea party message: It's a force to be reckoned with.
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James Hedtke, author of “Lame Duck Presidents: Myth or Reality,” concurs, saying the tea partyers’ passion and tendency to vote will make them a particular force to be reckoned with during the party’s search for a candidate.Skip to next paragraph
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“The passionate forces tend to turn out in the primaries and caucuses,” says Dr. Hedtke, chair of the history and political science department at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania, noting that in most states, voter turnout hovers at around ten percent in this early process. “That makes this group particularly influential in choosing the candidate,” he notes, while at the same time presenting a challenge for the larger Republican Party.
“The danger for the Republican Party,” says Mr. Frazier, “is that to the extent that the tea party is in control, it could drive the party over a cliff,” nominating a candidate that cannot win in a general election.
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However some political analysts say the tea party’s influence will wane.
“The tea party supporters will no doubt have some influence on the first few primary contests but they will not be a power throughout the country,” emails Jerry Kremer, a former Democratic congressman from New York and chairman of Empire Government Strategies, a political consulting group. “The more exposure the tea party gets, the more they turn off mainstream and independent voters in both parties.... The tea party supporters won't count in the end.”
The audience responses Monday night and in the previous debate suggest that the eventual nominee is going to have a hard time keeping his or her party coalition together and win over more moderate voters, Seth Masket, political science professor at the Univeristy of Denver, says via email.
He adds, "people who cheer at claims that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme or that the Fed chairman is guilty of treason or that the uninsured should be left to die will simply not be content with a nominee who tacks to the center to try to win swing states.”
It was the audience, not the candidates, who made it clear who was in charge, Mr. Laermer adds, with the rowdy boos and applause creating a soundtrack of tea party values for the night.
The rowdy tone of the debate was a taste of things to come, says Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak, president of Potomac Strategy Group, who has worked with tea party groups.
“This is a group that speaks up for itself,” he says. “This is who they are, they are disruptive.”