Tea Party Set Agenda for Debt Debate

Wednesday, 03 Aug 2011 12:23 PM

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The success of the tea party in setting the agenda in the debt deal has put GOP candidates in a quandary. They must decide whether embracing the movement will lead to victory in 2012 or drive away independents and lead to defeat, The New York Times reported.

“The process didn’t please anyone,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told the Times, “but it was very clear that the new congressmen elected in 2010 dramatically shifted the debate from how much more shall we spend to how much shall we cut.” Ayres added that Republican candidates in 2012 must weigh the merits of tea party ties with the individual race and state.

Tea Party Set Agenda for Debt Debate
Sen. Orrin Hatch (AP photo)
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., both facing tea party challenges, took different paths. Hatch voted against the deal and Lugar supported it. Lugar called the deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and cut federal spending a “victory for conservative fiscal responsibility,” the Times reported.

“Orrin has made the decision to highlight every ultraconservative vote he’s ever made, and he’s going around saying ‘I was tea party before it was cool to be tea party,’” Bob Bennett, a former Republican senator from Utah who was defeated by a tea party candidate in the Republican primary in 2010, told the Times. “I have no way of knowing at this point how that’s going to play out.”

Republican candidates who supported the deal are facing threats from groups like the Club for Growth, but others are urging tea party supporters not to turn the debt deal vote into another version of the 2008 bank bailout vote. Noted conservative Richard Viguerie said, “This is not the time to start fighting amongst ourselves. Nothing could make the left happier than to see a splintering of the Tea Party movement,” the Times reported.

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