Despite Primary Loses, Tea Party Gets Stronger

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 08:46 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The hard-right tea party faction has claimed just one big win so far this primary season — in Virginia, where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was unseated by a little-known conservative, Dave Brat.

But The Washington Post reported Wednesday "the truth is that in some ways the movement continues to get stronger."

"The tea party wins when it wins, and it wins when it loses," Washington Post blogger Paul Waldman writes. "Five years after it began and long after many people (myself included) thought it would fade away, it continues to hold the GOP in its grip."

Waldman points to Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts' primary victory Tuesday over tea party favorite Milton Wolf, noting the radiologist's posting of X-rays of some patients on Facebook probably cost him the win.

And he noted incumbent Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran won his primary runoff against state Sen. Chris McDaniel by wooing Democrats and African-Americans, which state law allows.

But, Waldman writes, "just about every time, what the incumbent had to do in order to win ended up strengthening" the tea party, "usually because it involved moving to the right …" He said even the losses "only further prove that it's doing the right thing."

The Wolf loss in Kansas may be a case in point.

The Hill reports that even though Wolf's loss doesn't bode well for Thursday's primary pitting Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, a tea party favorite, against incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, conservatives aren't bowed.

"[The establishment has] been forced to adopt our issues," one unidentified conservative told The Hill. "It has always been difficult to gain enough name ID and raise money to defeat an incumbent who lacks any personal scandals. That will never change. But we are winning on the issues."

Waldman writes there's "no reason why" the tea party "can't go on for a long time, so long as it finds enough support within the Republican base and enough incumbent Republicans who fear it."

Recent polling has showed Americans are divided on the tea party's influence. A HuffPost/YouGov poll last month showed 30 percent of Americans think the tea party has made inroads on the political scene; 27 percent say its influence has remained the same over the last two years; and 20 percent say its influence has declined.


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