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Stunned Republicans ponder life with Tea Party

By JOHN WHITESIDES
September 17, 2010

Christine O'Donnell: The new face of the GOP? (Reuters)

Divided Republicans pointed fingers and vowed to regroup on Wednesday after a stunning Tea Party upset in Delaware dealt a blow to their hopes of recapturing control of the Senate in November.

Conservative upstart Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of nine-term U.S. Representative Michael Castle in a Senate primary ended the career of one of the last Republican moderates in Congress and set off a round of Democratic celebrations.

The loss by Castle, who had been expected to cruise to victory in the November 2 election, bolstered Democratic efforts to keep the Senate seat long held by Vice President Joe Biden and made it tougher for Republicans to pick up the 10 Democratic seats they need for a Senate majority.

Asked about the results of the election in his home state, Biden said that Castle had fallen victim to a new mood in the Republican Party.

“It’s real tough for the Republican Party …” Biden said in excerpts of an interview with MSNBC. “It’s kind of hung on a shingle. You know, no moderates need apply. It’s sort of spawned a … tone in politics that is not helpful to getting things done.”

Republicans are still expected to turn voter worries about the economy and President Barack Obama’s leadership into big gains in November that could give them control of the House and perhaps even the Senate, once considered a longshot.

O’Donnell’s win was the biggest in a string of upsets of establishment Republicans this year by loosely organized Tea Party candidates driven by anger at government in Washington and at Obama’s ambitious agenda.

On Wednesday, O’Donnell bickered on Fox News with prominent Republican Karl Rove and complained of “Republican cannibalism” after attacks on her from the party establishment.

“I didn’t count on the establishment to win the primary, I’m not counting on them to win the general (election),” she said. “They obviously don’t see what’s going on in the country this year.”

Rove, the architect of President George W. Bush’s two White House wins, responded with a litany of allegations about her campaign debts, tax liens and personal background that he said would make it tough for her to win in November.

A TEA PARTY MOOD

The Tea Party’s platform of limited government, lower spending and opposition to Obama could have a big impact on the Republican approach on the budget and taxes in the next Congress, and has proven a good match with the public mood.

“I’m not all torn up this morning,” Republican strategist Jim Dyke said. “The mood of the country has not changed from yesterday, and that’s an overwhelming opposition to the policies President Obama and Democrats have put in place.”

Polls show Tea Party candidates doing well in states like Nevada, Kentucky and Colorado. Republican Marco Rubio is confounding predictions by leading a three-way Florida Senate race against a strong independent and a Democratic rival, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans rate Congressional Democrats negatively, while 68 percent disapprove of the Congressional Republicans’ performance, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released late on Wednesday.

The Delaware and New York results bolstered Democratic arguments that the Republican Party has been taken over by extremists, giving them hope moderates and independent voters who are sour on Democrats will not find Republicans to be a suitable alternative in November.

“Democrats are making a big mistake if they deride Tea Party candidates as extremists when the top issues they are talking about are lower deficits and spending,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden said.

But Democrats said Republicans had proven they did not have room for anyone who does not conform to their narrow agenda.

“I think the message is moderates are not welcome. Moderates keep out,” Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine said on NBC’s “Today” show.

The contest in Delaware highlighted the final day of primaries before November, with voters in seven states choosing nominees for the Senate, House of Representatives and governor’s races.

In New Hampshire’s Republican Senate primary, former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte, who had been endorsed by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, narrowly beat Tea Party-backed lawyer Ovide Lamontagne. O’Donnell also was backed by Palin.

The Tea Party movement won another high-profile race in New York, where political newcomer Carl Paladino easily beat the establishment choice, former U.S. Representative Rick Lazio, in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Paladino, who pledges to spend up to $10 million of his own money, will be a huge underdog in the November race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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One Response to Stunned Republicans ponder life with Tea Party

  1. Keith

    September 17, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Actually, this “Tea Party” movement has been around in the Republican Party for decades. It’s just gone by a whole bunch of different names.

    The Republicans have seemingly always had a “far right”, ultra-conservative wing that continually judges Republican candidates based on whether or not they pass a whole series of absolutely non-negotiable social and/or fiscal “litmus tests”.

    That is, unless a candidate’s stand on such things as abortion (outlawed), gay marriage (ditto), taxes (low), the size of government (small), and “free enterprise” (letting big banks and business regulate themselves) meets with their approval, such candidates are dismissed out of hand.

    These often non-negotiable “litmus tests” have traditionally created havoc within the Republican Party because the far right, (who, unfortunately, still make up a significant portion of the population who call themselves “Republicans”) won’t support more moderate candidates the Party needs to put up in general elections to actually win. Indeed, the far right flakes will stay home before they’ll vote for any “abortion promoting socialist”…even from within their own Party.

    The stillborn 1964 Goldwater candidacy, their steadfast refusal to support Nelson Rockefeller over the years, and the encroachment (and rabid support) by this crowd of such absolute far-right flakes as Ross Perot have all resulted in the Party going down to certain defeat against a far more united Democratic Party come election time.

    Indeed, this ultra hard line, “you are either with us or against us” approach to politics has resulted in defeat after defeat for the Republican Party over the years. And, with far right, Bible thumping nut cases like Mike Huckabee now starting to again wander around in New Hampshire looking for votes in their 2012 Presidential Primary, I suspect the Republicans will once again “shoot themselves in the foot” by not supporting their own, far more moderate mainstream candidates come election time…either in this coming 2010 mid-term election OR in 2012.

    The Republicans fervently claim they are a Party with a “Big Tent”.

    But, in election after election, they’ve shown themselves to be anything but.