Tea Party Shows Little Sign of Weakness in GOP Battles

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Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 08:12 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Battles between establishment Republicans and tea party advocates don't appear to have weakened the grassroots movement. That fighting, however, likely will continue well into 2014, say political insiders.

"This process is one that has been unfolding for a while, so the idea that you are now going to wrestle control back from the people who vote, good luck with that," former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told Politico.

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Steele, while discounting the victory of Bradley Byrne — an Alabama Republican who won a recent special runoff election for a key House seat over tea party contender Dean Young, said that establishment Republicans can claim victory, but "at the end of the day, this is a much larger thing than one race at one time. You've got to put it in the proper context."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has ramped up its efforts against several tea party groups, taking on organizations such as the Senate Conservatives Fund after it targeted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other key Republicans in the 2014 primaries.

The NRSC has also refused to work with some companies, such as Jamestown Associates, which have taken on advertising work with the Senate Conservatives Fund, including campaigns to attack McConnell, reports Politico.

Senate Conservative Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins told Politico that establishment "bullying" won't make his group change its mind, as it plans to keep attacking Republicans they believe aren't conservative enough.

"Mitch McConnell refuses to fight for conservative principles and it’s time for a change,” Hoskins said.

But with upcoming debt-ceiling talks and another government funding fight looming in 2014, the in-party friction likely won't end soon.

NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring said his group's goal is to win back the Senate majority, and the tea party challenges are endangering that plan.

“There’s nothing ‘conservative’ about an organization that has no accountability, no oversight, and no return on investment for the hardworking grassroots folks who donate to it,” Dayspring said about the SCF. “This is the political major leagues; final results are the only thing that matters. The chatter between now and then is little more than Beltway catnip.”

Establishment Republicans are also fighting back against The Heritage Foundation and its president, former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, which also backs tea party challengers against incumbent Republicans.

But Heritage Action’s Dan Holler said his group will keep fighting.

“The Republican Party loves them when they go and knock on doors and make phone calls, but after the election, they pat you on the head and say, ‘We’ll call you in two years when we need manpower on the ground.’ Folks are tired of that,” Holler said.

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