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GOP Incumbents Warn Donors about Tea Party Dangers

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By Melissa Clyne   |  

Establishment Republicans are warning important donors that they could lose support in Congress on defense contracts and other issues if they don't step up to help beat back tea party primary challenges to incumbent senators.

According to the Wall Street Journal reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently warned officials from defense contractor BAE Systems Inc. that if tea party factions begin winning primaries, military spending will take a hit.

"In the current debate, spending cuts have trumped robust national-security spending," one person who attended a fundraiser for the Kentucky Republican, told the Journal.

"The main message he was pushing was: Get involved, mainly to teach those who are primarying incumbents that it is not helpful to run against incumbents who are champions for the industry."

More than half of the 12 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2014, including McConnell, face challenges from tea party candidates. If Republicans and their supporters can’t come together, the party has no chance of taking back control of the Senate, McConnell and other incumbents are also reportedly warning potential contributors.

Tea party supporters don’t typically opt for compromise and believe their elected officials should vote on principle, not constituent majority, according to various poll results published in the National Journal.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has also lobbied for establishment Republicans to beat back their tea party brethren, accusing the group of handicapping the party by “forcing GOP lawmakers to take ill-advised policy positions,” a reference to the federal government shutdown, which many Americans blamed on Republicans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also gotten involved, pouring money into the coffers of establishment candidates from Alabama to Idaho, who are much more moderate than their tea party-aligned challengers to the right. The Chamber blames the grass roots faction for holding the country hostage by demanding the defunding of Obamacare, resulting in the 16-day partial government shutdown in October.

The Chamber along with a number of corporate giants, such as Pfizer and AT&T, threw its financial support behind former Alabama State Sen. Bradley Byrne, who faced a challenge from Dean Young, an anti-government evangelical Christian who opposes gays “pretending they are married” and ascribes to the birther theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

With the Chamber’s backing, Byrne defeated Young, buoying the Chamber to get involved in races in Idaho, Kentucky and West Virginia.

"We believe the stakes for the American economy and the business community are high, and we plan to vigorously participate in the 2014 elections," Blair Latoff Holmes, a chamber spokeswoman, told the Washington Times.

The tea party is “a reactionary conservative force . . . that prefers the sorts of dramatic changes that threaten the stability traditional conservatives usually seek to preserve,” writes University of Washington political scientist Christopher Parker, author of “Change They Can’t Believe In,” in a blog piece from the Washington Post.

“Reactionary conservatives fear losing their way of life amid social change. To preserve their group’s social prestige, they’re willing to undermine long-established norms and institutions," Parker observes. "Furthermore, reactionary conservatives are more likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories as a means of explaining the perceived erosion of their dominance. Reactionary conservatives will, therefore, claim that their “enemies” are destroying their way of life. Compromise is commensurate with defeat, not political expediency.”


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Establishment Republicans are warning important donors that they could lose support in Congress on defense contracts and other issues if they don't step up to help beat back tea party primary challenges to incumbent senators.
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