Monday, June 21, 2010

Can The Tea Party Play in Peoria?

David Frum comes up with a good analysis of what will probably happen to Republicans come fall. With all the talk about the Tea Party and how it is transforming the GOP, and how they will take back Congress from the Democrats in November, there has been little talk about how "seaworthy" these Tea Party candidates will be when they come face to face with Democrats.

As Frum notes, in states like Illinois, Ohio and New Hampshire, mainstream Republicans are the standardbearers who will probably win their races for the US Senate. In contrast, the Tea Party candidates such as Nevada's Sharon Angle and Kentucky's Rand Paul might have captured the imagination of activists, but so far are not catching fire with the general electorate. Here's a sample:

...Republicans (in New Hampshire, Ohio and Illinois)nominated a range of mainstream candidates. In Illinois they have Mark Kirk – a socially moderate, fiscally conservative member of Congress, who represents the suburbs north of Chicago.

In Ohio, the Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a former US Trade Representative and White House budget chief. Kelly Ayotte is likely to win the Republican primary in New Hampshire. Currently the state's attorney general, she is a mainstream conservative: for lower taxes, against abortion. This is exactly the kind of candidate Republicans ought to nominate, and all three look set to win. Result: two holds and one net gain in the Senate.

But this good news for the mainstream GOP is balanced by the grim tally for Tea Party candidates. Consider another set of races. In Kentucky and Nevada, Tea Party activists won nominations for two of their own: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle. Both have aligned themselves with an array of wild positions. Mrs Angle wants to abolish social security and Medicare and has spoken favourably of armed insurrection against the federal government.

Mr Paul has declared his dislike of laws forbidding businesses to discriminate on grounds of race. He fears that global elites are plotting to abolish the dollar and substitute a new North American currency, "the Amero".

The Tea Party has been a sensation, but only within the GOP. When these candidates come in contact with the real world and with worldy Democratic candidates, we might see that the power of the Tea Party is that of a paper tiger.

Elections have to be won by getting the votes in the center, and when you have people running for office believing in some crackpot theories, you've pretty much lost the middle.

I think come November, we shall see if the Tea Party has any staying power.

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