One key lesson of Tuesday's run-off elections in Mississippi and Oklahoma is that "local tea party groups have more influence than the national groups purporting to speak for them," Republican strategist Karl Rove wrote in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal.
While national tea party groups such as the Club for Growth took a beating, politicians who stayed close to their constituents and to local Republican activists came out winners, Rove said.
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran overcame Chris McDaniel's challenge thanks to a strategy developed by Henry and Haley Barbour
. They brought out Republicans who had not voted in the original primary and mobilized African American Democrats who also hadn't taken part in any earlier primary, encouraging them to vote against the tea-party candidate.
Rove's American Crossroads backed Cochran.
Cochran's close call underscores the need for members of Congress to stay in tune with their constituents. The senator's admission that he didn't understand what motivated the tea party illuminates why McDaniel came so close to unseating the veteran incumbent, according to Rove.
In Oklahoma, perceived GOP establishment candidate Rep. Jim Lankford overcame state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who had national tea party backing. Local tea party groups stuck with Lankford or stayed out of the race, Rove said.
An important takeaway from Tuesday's results for elected officials is to make sure constituents know they're being heard, Rove said.
"That doesn't mean incumbents need to be in lock-step with every group on every issue," Rove wrote. "It does mean holding town hall meetings, staying in touch with local political leaders, listening to their concerns, treating them with respect by telling them when and why one disagrees, and cultivating allies."
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