The Republican Party made a huge mistake not embracing the tea party in 2010, and it cost them in 2012, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on his show Wednesday.
But Limbaugh predicts another huge tea party turnout in the 2014 midterm elections. The reason: There's no single national candidate on the ballot to make them sit home – and the things that angered them in 2010 have gotten worse.
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Republicans had natural allies in the tea party movement, Limbaugh said, but chose to distance themselves from them.
"You could welcome them into the fold. You could build a movement around them," Limbaugh said.
But the group that showed up at rallies and town hall meetings in 2010 were vilified by the media and Democrats, and frightened members of the Republican leadership backed away, he said.
As time has gone on, Limbaugh said, tea partiers have figured out "the Republicans are not really that crazy about them being in the party because they embarrass them – or something."
In the eyes of the GOP "establishment," the tea party is made up of unsophisticated types who don't understand how politics works, they are emotional and a little out of control, Limbaugh said.
"We have to find a way to contain them," he says the GOP leadership thought. "Members of the tea party understand this.
"Here you have a made-to-order, motivated, energized, activist, willing to donate – millions of people that you could welcome into the fold," Limbaugh said. " You could build a movement around them."
But the Republican party was as uninterested in them as the Democrats were interested in destroying them, he said.
Imagine, he said, if party had brought them in and used that enthusiasm rather than actively rejecting millions of people who want to support it.
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Limbaugh expected the tea party to make another big showing the 2012 presidential election, but was wrong. He thinks that was because the tea party felt rejected.
"The (Republican) party had in any number of ways had let them know they weren't interested," he said. "So they sat home."
But in 2014 there will be no presidential candidate on the ticket, meaning tea party members will be less constrained in showing up at the polls, he said. "And they have more reasons than ever to turn out: Stopping Obama from totally controlling all the branches of the government."
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