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Forum - Tea Party Has Arrived: Predictable Infighting Marks The Movement's Big Day

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Agent MattPosted: Nov 04, 2010 - 09:04

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The tea party is now officially part of the legitimate political scene. How do we know? After the movement's electoral victories last night, the bickering that goes with political victory has begun. As the various tea party groups try to read the tea leaves from last night, the infighting that marked marked the movement's emergence onto the scene has spilled over into the post-election euphoria.

First, let's take a look at how well the tea party candidates fared last night. Though many of their high-profile Senate nominees -- Sharron Angle in Nevada, Joe Miller in Alaska, Ken Buck in Colorado and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware -- appear to have come up short in the final tally, the tea party has a lot to be proud of. Kentucky's Senator-elect, Rand Paul, is about as tea party as they come and will likely serve as a vocal mouthpiece for the movement in the upper chamber of Congress.

By the numbers, though, the tea party did not do that well. NBC News crunched the data and found that off the dozens and dozens of tea party candidates on ballots last night, about 60% of them lost. Still, with the GOP still running scared from from the tea party, even the 32% of candidates that made it through will be a potent force in the new Republican majority in the House.

And even though gubernatorial favorites like Carl Paladino in New York and Tom Tancredo didn't make it, tea party backer Rick Scott did in Florida, ensuring movement influence over an important presidential state in 2012.

As many, many, many mainstream Republican leaders have said today, the tea party is here to stay. And that means it's time for the political backbiting.

A little history first: two of the most nationally influential tea party umbrella groups, the Tea Party Express and the Tea Party Patriots, have been at each other's throats for a long time. In a nutshell, the grassroots-based Patriots group says the PAC- and political consultant-backed Express is a total phony; the Express says that since it has the money to spend on candidates like Angle to help them win primaries, the Patriots can stuff it.

It's the kind of movement infighting one can expect from any politically influential group (and the kind you find in non-influential groups, too). But for the tea party, which is so singularly-focused on cutting every tax in sight and slashing the budget for every (non-defense related) government program at the same time, the open disagreements between groups like the Express and the Patriots can seem jarring to outsiders. After all, different labor unions can have serious disagreements about what they want to have happen after an election -- but, for the most part, tea partiers all agree on what needs to be done.

Nevertheless, the first day of tea party victory has shown that the internal bickering that marked the movement's political rise will mark its political salad days as well.

"One thing that we've seen across the country is that in places where the Tea Party people were allowed to nominate their own nominees and were not influenced by top-down political organizations, such as Tea Party Express, the Republicans did win," Tea Party Patriots organizer Jenny Beth Martin told reporters this morning.

The Tea Party Express seems to dismiss such claims and revel in their victory. "We succeeded far beyond what anybody would have predicted. We've completely changed the complexion of American politics," said Express political guru Sal Russo told Politico.

"I'm satisfied with our candidates," Russo said. "They were right on the issues and in concert with the zeitgeist of our times."

NRSC chairman John Cornyn, perhaps wisely, has declined to weigh in on the internal battle over the tea party's candidates, deciding instead to punt on the whole question. According to him, if a candidate won the primary, then that candidate was the GOP's best shot at winning.

"I think the process is such that, of course, you're not going to have a chance to win the general if you can't win the primary," Cornyn told reporters today. "So that sort of resolves the issue of who the strongest candidate was."

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MuertosPosted: Nov 04, 2010 - 10:05

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Oooo, you mentioned Zeitgeist!


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