Which matters most to the 'tea party': win seats or reshape GOP?
The 'tea party' movement has driven out some GOP 'establishment' candidates. The big question is whether activists' picks can win in November, though that may not be what they care about most.
(Page 2 of 2)
Dozens of House and Senate seats are competitive in 2010, as Democrats face the task of running amid unpopular aspects of President Obama's record, especially the health-care reform law that Congress approved in March without a single Republican vote.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Democrats are hoping that Americans' rather dour view of the new health-care law will improve as people see how it affects their lives. But so far, polls do not show a marked change in public opinion on health reform, says Mr. Franklin, co-founder of Pollster.com. Such a turn may be a "forlorn hope" for Democrats, he adds.
Their other hope is that the tea party will damage Republican election prospects in November. There, Franklin sees reason for Democrats to smile, because polls show that less than 30 percent of Americans openly support the tea party movement.
"There is some truth to Democrats now saying, 'Just let them move far to the right and we'll let their own rhetoric catch up to them when it's a general-election electorate rather than a Republican primary,' " Franklin says.
There are signs that Democrats, too, are getting snagged in the anti-establishment furor, though not one directly of the tea party's making. Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia now "finds himself in the race of his life as West Virginia Democrats have soured on the veteran lawmaker" after his vote for health-care reform, writes The Speaker's Lobby blog on FoxNews.com.
But so far Republican officeholders are mostly the ones on the hot seat. Next up is the May 18 GOP primary in Kentucky, in which tea party candidate Rand Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, is vying with Trey Grayson, the Republican Party's pick. Such battles, some conservatives say, point to a GOP that is grappling with something deeper than voter anger – namely a desire to shore up what tea partyers see as an erosion in core constitutional principles, evident in Washington free-spending, huge national debt, and weakened states' rights.
"The great disentangling of conservatism has begun," writes blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com. "It is not, as some like to say, a purge. … It is an insurrection and a necessary fight. For too long conservatives have given their money and votes to Republicans who, every election year, whip out a red cloth with the word 'judges' written on one side and 'abortion' written on the other and wave it in front of the grassroots. But the grassroots realize they've been had."
IN PICTURES: Tea Parties
- Why Americans are so angry
- 'Tea Party' eyes big prize: the 2010 midterm elections
- Tea party’s biggest concern isn’t Obama’s agenda