Tea Party Candidates Riding Wave From Cantor's Loss

Image: Tea Party Candidates Riding Wave From Cantor's Loss Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel speaks during a Tea Party rally supporting his Republican candidacy for U.S. Senate on June 22 in a Hobby Lobby parking lot in Biloxi, Miss.

Monday, 23 Jun 2014 09:24 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Tea party-backed Chris McDaniel is heading into Tuesday's runoff election in Mississippi against incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran just as the group has been re-energized with the stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on June 10.

Just before Cantor's defeat to newcomer David Brat in Virginia, tea party candidates were not faring well in the nation's elections, Politico reports.

But now, underdog challengers are being taken more seriously, financial backing is once again starting to come in, and tea party candidates are feeling more optimistic about their chances to push Washington's "establishment" lawmakers out of office.

While Cantor's defeat has been the catalyst for the tea party's new optimism, McDaniel himself scored a victory  for the tea party movement in on June 2, when he finished 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran, receiving 157,733 votes for 49.5 percent of the ballot. Cochran got 156,315 votes, or 49 percent. Since neither candidate netted over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election was ordered.

Millions of dollars are being poured into both races by outside groups, with recent polls  showing McDaniel ahead 50 percent to 44 percent.

The Tea Party Express hosted four bus tour events in Mississippi over the weekend to raise support for McDaniel, The New York Times reports. 

A victory for McDaniel, coming on the heels of the Cantor defeat, could push yet another one of Washington's most powerful senators out of office and pit a tea party candidate against a Democrat this fall.

McDaniel went along with the Tea Party Express bus to its stop in Tupelo on Saturday, and was to ride it to Biloxi on Sunday for an event. Meanwhile, Cochran is bringing in the big guns, as well — Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain campaigned with him in Gulfport on Sunday.

Mississippi isn't the only place where the tea party movement is feeling powerful after Brat's big win in Virginia. Tea party-backed candidate Joe Carr, who is fighting for the Republican nomination in Tennessee against two-term Sen. Lamar Alexander in the state's Aug. 7 primary, told Politico he was addressing a group of tea party activists the night Cantor lost, and "the place went nuts" when the announcement was made about Brat's victory.

And within the next 36 hours, the money started rolling in for Carr, with his campaign receiving between $40,000 and $50,000 in donations.

"It was absolutely a big shot in the arm," said Carr, a state lawmaker who owns a family farm.

Other tea party candidates are feeling the boost, as well. In the Kansas Republican race, where physician and conservative activist Milton Wolf is campaigning against longtime incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, a "money-bomb" fundraiser held after Brat's win raised about $35,000 over a 36-hour period.

And Wolf is using the Cantor race in his campaign, saying that like Cantor, Roberts is refusing to debate his opponent. Further, he's used the Cantor loss to spotlight questions about Roberts' residency, saying that "Eric Cantor isn’t the only incumbent from Virginia who is going to lose his primary this year."

Another candidate, Claudia Tenney, has been quoted as saying she's trying to join the "Brat pack" with a win over incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna in Tuesday's primary election in New York. And Bob Johnson, who is campaigning against state Sen. Buddy Carter for the nomination for a congressional seat, called Cantor's defeat a "warning" to his opponent.

In addition to Mississippi's runoff election and New York's primary on Tuesday, primary elections are also scheduled in Oklahoma, Colorado, Maryland, and Utah.

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