My recent TEA Party postings have apparently stepped on some toes. I realize that but I also believe that we can learn a lot from victory but we can learn even more from failure.
The TEA Party movement was the genesis of change that started America on the road to recovery from the Progressive attacks. Without the TEA Party protests, as bad as things are right now, there is no doubt they would be worse. Far worse, were it not for the protests.
But protests can only go so far. At some point you have to move beyond simply drawing attention to a Constitutional injustice and move into activities that will actually do something to make that change actually happen.
The TEA Party is not perfect and it is evolving. There have been some less than successful efforts that I have already discussed, and some very successful moments we will look at. Examining the good and the bad can teach us what to avoid and what to embrace.
First, we need to take an honest assessment of each race. We need to ask ourselves where the voters are in the process of moving from left to right and work to plug in the most conservative candidate that is truly electable. And we must consider the level of competition from the Democrats and plan accordingly.
In Indiana, TEA Party backed Republican challenger Richard Mourdock defeated long time Republican Senator Richard Lugar and the race immediately moved from “Safe Republican” to a toss up with Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly initially a slight favorite. Some now have the race as “Leans Republican” and I tend to agree with that.
I believe that this race might be the outer edge of what can be considered a wise move and what may be a serious blunder. Lugar is a great candidate to replace. He is one of the most out of touch Republicans in the Senate and well beyond his expiration date. Even so, is it wise to potentially allow the Democrats the chance to pick up the seat? Probably not. But can Mourdock win? While it is by no means certain, I believe he will defeat Donnelly. Here’s why.
Obama won in Indiana by less than 1% and since that time, Indiana has moved to the right. Donnelly is a pro-life, pro-gun Conservative Blue dog Democrat that is not much different from Lugar. He is a current member of the Indiana House but he barely won in 2010 in a very tight race. He managed a 1% margin of victory. But Indiana has a +6 rating on the Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) and the Governor, Senate and House are controlled by Republicans, they have 6 Republican Congressmen and 3 Democrats and both Senators are GOP members.
Conditions in Indiana are highly favorable for a Mourdock victory and this will shift the Republican balance in the Senate to the right. While this is an iffy call, it makes sense for Indiana to go all in on this race. It is not a sure thing, but should prove to be a good decision in November and after. Conditions are right for placing a more conservative Republican in the U S Senate.
The lay of the land in Virginia is quite different. Obama won Virginia in 2008 by over 6 points. We presently have 2 Democratic Senators, 8 Republican Congressmen and 3 Democrats, the House of Delegates is solidly Republican and the State Senate is a 20-20 tie. And the Governor is Republican.
This gives Virginia a +2 CPVI Rating. We lean Republican and since 2009 have seen great gains for Republicans, but are still somewhat “purple” – between red and blue. Northern Virginia is a problem for Republicans.
Based on this, we can probably replace Democratic Senator Webb with a Republican, but with a very competitive opponent for the Democrats, Tim Kaine, who will pretend to be Conservative in this contest, a far right candidate will most likely lose. A more centrist conservative has a better shot. I think George Allen is well positioned across the center/right spectrum to defeat Kaine.
In two years, Virginia’s other senator Mark Warner will face re-election. Should Mitt Romney win the White House in November and should the economy improve (two big if’s), Virginia will probably have a chance to elect a solidly conservative Senator to replace Warner. The TEA Party and other groups should be searching for a suitable candidate to field in 2014. We will probably not be able to go for a far right candidate in 2014, but the state will be ready for a Conservative Republican as opposed to a Moderate by then.
This past weekend pollster Scott Rasmussen had an interesting observation. He said politicians don’t drive the direction of the country. Public Opinion always leads and politicians follow. They jump on the bandwagon after the fact. He cited Rosa Parks an an example. Parks was not the first African-American to defy segregation laws. Others had done the same thing before her, yet failed to spawn the Civil Rights Movement. Rasmussen posited that during the time between the earlier defiant moments and Park’s protest, public opinion shifted. Rosa Parks did not initiate the change in public opinion, that had already happened. She only served as the catalyst for what had already happened. And the politicians followed public opinion.
The TEA Party groups have had a major impact on moving public opinion. That has been the most important thing the TEA Party has accomplished. Opinion is moving to the right. The pace varies from state to state and county to county, but we are moving to the right.
The trick will be to place the candidate that most closely represents the current state of public opinion in a position to be elected. Since the direction is to the right, a candidate a bit ahead of the wave – that is one who is a bit more conservative than the state of public opinion – will have the best chance of being elected.
If we move too far by fielding a candidate that is too far in front of the public opinion wave we risk a loss. And each election to come, we will need to measure the direction and assess the state of public opinion.
This is in no way a short term fix. It will take years to move back to where we need to be as a nation. And it will take constant attention and maintenance to keep us moving in the right direction. Each successive election must build on the previous.
When Conservative Republicans and Libertarians are considered centrists and moderates, we will be able to move from battle mode to maintenance mode. And the maintenance can never stop.