Election 2010 all about tea party? It's more: It's year of the outsider.
The tea party has energized Republicans, even if it also complicates life for the GOP after Nov. 2. But the movement is actually part of a larger Election 2010 trend -- one that features the most diverse GOP field in history.
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And not all GOP women have wrapped themselves in former Governor Palin's "mama grizzly" mantle. Both of California's high-profile Republican women candidates – Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for Senate – managed to have scheduling conflicts when Palin appeared at a big GOP rally in Orange County on Oct. 16. But there's no doubt that conservative women are emboldened by a new sense of possibility in a party whose right wing has moved beyond the notion that women with children should be at home full time. Hillary Rodham Clinton's strong run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 may also have provided feminist inspiration across the aisle. Tea partyer Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Senate nominee from Delaware, has said more than once that she admires Secretary of State Clinton.Skip to next paragraph
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Another traditional Achilles' heel for the GOP has been minorities, and again, 2010 has seen a boost. Fourteen black Republicans have been nominated in House races. One is sure to win – putting the first GOP African-American in the House since J.C. Watts retired in 2002 – and two others have a chance. Black Republicans say the election of the first black president helped wake up their ranks.
Overall, it was a banner year for Republican recruitment, as the nation's economic woes, industry bailouts, and health-care reform energized the right. But not everything has gone according to plan. The tea party movement, a boon to the Republicans for its energy, also helped defeat more mainstream, establishment favorites in key primaries – including Scott's upset victory over Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum – which could cost the party seats.
In Scott's case, even the $1.7 billion Medicare fraud judgment against his former company, Columbia/HCA, didn't scare off Republican primary voters. Scott's track record as a successful businessman – and job creator – is all many Florida voters want to hear about in this era of stubbornly high employment.
The net result is a Republican Party whose national short-term prospects remain excellent but whose longer-term future is dotted with question marks.
Here's the short-term outlook:
House Republican leader John Boehner can probably start measuring the drapes in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. With about 100 out of 435 House seats in play, most of them held by Democrats, nonpartisan handicappers predict gains comfortably beyond the 39 seats needed for a GOP takeover. "Democrats' chances of losing at least 50 seats are now greater than their chances of holding losses under 45 seats," David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote Oct. 14.