'Tea Party' eyes big prize: the 2010 midterm elections
The year-old tea party movement is growing. But it’s fractious, and that may undercut conservative strength for the midterm elections.
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Aside from being the establishment favorite, Hurt has also earned tea party scorn over his 2004 vote to increase taxes. The biggest problem, for now, is that the seven Republicans are spending money fighting among themselves, rather than going after the Democrat. If any of the tea party candidates breaks away before the primary to run as an independent, the problems could deepen, as the Republican/conservative vote could be split in the general election.Skip to next paragraph
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Across the nation, Republicans are flocking to run in congressional primaries, with more than double the number running in 2010 than in 2006. "Every Republican candidate wants to reach out to these local organizations in their state," says Mr. Wasserman.
The question is how many tea partyers enter the general election as independents, opposing both Republicans and Democrats on the ballot. That could happen in about 10 districts, he says.
In Senate races, tea-party-backed candidates are making a splash in several primaries:
•Florida: Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has rocked the political world with his insurgent campaign against Gov. Charlie Crist (R) for the state's open Senate seat. Governor Crist, at one time a popular moderate with a knack for fundraising, appeared unbeatable, but the more conservative Mr. Rubio looks poised to beat him in the Aug. 24 primary - if Crist remains in the battle at all. He is widely reported to be considering quitting the GOP and running for Senate as an independent, which would turn the general election into a three-way battle.
•Arizona: No less a figure than Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2008, faces a strong challenge from the right by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. The Arizona tea party groups have opted not to make an endorsement in the Aug. 24 primary, but Mr. Hayworth is a clear favorite among rank-and-file tea partyers in the state.
•Kentucky: Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, looked like a shoo-in to become the Republican nominee for the state's open Senate seat until Rand Paul came along. Mr. Paul, an ophthalmologist and antitax activist, has gained traction with tea partyers, who discount Mr. Grayson over his GOP establishment backing. Paul is also the son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, which gives him cachet.