'Fiscal cliff' deal: Will the Tea Party find renewed strength? (+video)
Some, including members of the Tea Party, are dissatisfied with the recently agreed upon deal relating to the fiscal cliff. Tea Party groups are looking toward the next election in hopes of replacing less conservative Republican members of Congress with Tea Party candidates.
The U.S. Congress prevented hefty tax hikes and spending cuts with a "fiscal cliff" deal this week, but grassroots conservatives are already seeking 2014 primary challengers for high-profile Republican lawmakers who backed the deal.Skip to next paragraph
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Few challengers have yet come forward. But fiscally conservative activists irate at Republicans who voted to raise some taxes without cutting spending are casting about for opponents to Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
"Many people here have watched Mitch McConnell's voting record and are dissatisfied with what they've seen," said Eric Wilson, executive director of the Kentucky 9/12 project, a Tea Party group in McConnell's home state. "There are some potential candidates working in the background and doing the right thing" including visiting Kentucky's conservatives to gauge support.
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Wilson declined to divulge names, citing McConnell's fundraising prowess that allowed him to amass almost $19 million for his 2008 re-election bid. McConnell could not be reach for comment.
"Anyone who sticks their neck out now will get their head cut off," he added. "But there are definitely people here with real potential."
In the 2010 midterm elections the Tea Party movement took the Republican "establishment" by surprise with high-profile primary victories over more conventional candidates and brought a wave of freshmen to the House of Representatives.
But despite successes in the primaries in 2012, most notably the defeat of Indiana's six-term Republican Senator Dick Lugar by state treasurer Richard Mourdock, conservative candidates fared poorly in the general election.
Tea Party supporters claim 2014 should be different as lower turnout in midterm years allows fiscal conservatives to punch above their weight.
"Presidential politics in 2012 sucked oxygen out of the conversation in local races," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, which coordinates with Tea Party groups around the country. "So to us, 2014 looks more like 2010."
After some disastrous showings by Tea Party candidates, most notably Christine O'Donnell in Delaware in 2010 who ended up running a television ad denying she was a witch, conservatives are on the lookout for credible candidates who can run effective campaigns and raise sufficient funds for a general election.
It is reasonable to expect challenges to some Republicans from the right in 2014, said James Henson, a politics professor at the University of Texas in Austin.
"Whether they use the name Tea Party or not is irrelevant," he said. "The DNA of their movement has now been spliced into the DNA of the Republican Party."
'In major trouble'
Previous battles in Congress have been marked by Tea Party activists around the country bombarding their elected representatives, mostly Republicans, calling on them to hold the conservative line.
Many did not bother ahead of the fiscal cliff deal, a bipartisan agreement to raise tax rates on incomes of more than $450,000 per household.
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