Tea Party a double-edged sword for Republicans

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 3, 2010 11:36am EDT

1 of 6. Tea Party supporters, including one dressed as George Washington (L), cheer as a television news network declares the Republican Party win control of the House of Representatives, at a rally on Election Day in Washington November 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Tea Party gave Republicans a jolt of energy that helped them capture the House of Representatives, but it may have proved too strong a brew to win the Senate.

The loosely organized network of conservatives and libertarians, which surfaced just last year, swept House Democrats from power on a wave of voter anger that handed Republicans a majority of at least 60 seats in the biggest power shift in Congress since 1948.

"There's absolutely no doubt that, overall, the Tea Party movement helped the Republicans enormously by fueling the grass-roots excitement that led to their historic margins," said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

At least 62 Tea Party-backed House and Senate candidates won elections on Tuesday, according to FreedomWorks, a nonprofit conservative group that helped build the movement from a series of public protests against President Barack Obama's spending and reform policies.

But the Tea Party movement also produced losses for Republicans in key Senate races, including Republican Sharron Angle's failed attempt to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

By Wednesday, Republicans had picked up only six of the 10 seats they needed to win control of the Senate. Tea Party-endorsed Senate candidates lost outright in Nevada, Delaware, Colorado and California.

Analysts say Republicans would have had a stronger chance of capturing the Senate with more established candidates.

HOUSE-SENATE TRADE-OFFS

"The Tea Party has a very mixed record and this reinforces mainstream Republican doubts about the fact that they are pulling the party too far to the right," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

The Tea Party tide toppled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from power and set up Republican John Boehner to replace her as the congressional chamber's top legislative leader in January.

Republican strategist Nicole Wallace acknowledged the Tea Party role had brought "trade-offs" for Republicans on the Senate side but told MSNBC: "I think without the energy of the Tea Party, we wouldn't be looking at a Speaker Boehner."

Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who heads FreedomWorks, said Republicans should be thanking the Tea Party for halting Obama's agenda.

"They have stopped the Obama legislative train from continuing in its leftward lurch across the country," Armey told Reuters.

The Tea Party has been blamed for fielding candidates such as Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who defeated experienced Republican moderate Mike Castle in the party primary but proved not ready for prime time in the general election.

O'Donnell's Senate bid was overshadowed by gaffes about witchcraft and divine intervention in state politics. She lost to Democrat Chris Coons by 17 percentage points.

Reid, who trailed Angle going into the election, emerged the victor by a 5 percentage point margin.

But Tea Party-backed Senate candidates won in Florida, Kentucky, Utah, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

PALIN EFFECT

Senate losses could mean new scrutiny for Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee who became a Tea Party celebrity by endorsing candidates including O'Donnell, Angle and Carly Fiorina in California.

She also endorsed fellow Alaska Republican Joe Miller, who upset Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the primary but appeared to be trailing her write-in candidacy on Wednesday in a contest that may not be decided for days or even weeks.

Palin is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and her chances may actually have been strengthened by her overall endorsement record, which includes 30 winning House candidates and five Senate candidates, analysts say.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Comments (6)
rgw wrote:
Last chance for Both parties..>>PASS THIS AROUNDtaxes we pay< 2terms/4yr terms only..ONE tax sales..no tax on food..Fed12% State 5%...
NO MORE CAREER politicians..Dem/Rep(GOP) do not like that..TO BAD..then listen..lies..lies..EV1.ORG..enough is enough..we had (2) healthcare systems now (3)????none work right except one that is best..Medicare..KEEP it ONLY..what it pays is it..NO SUP.INS..Doc./Hospitals want more they would have to submit justification of costs..EXAMPLE>$10.00 aspirin $20.00 box of Kleenex..GET IT..

Nov 02, 2010 12:01am EDT  --  Report as abuse
mcoleman wrote:
Where were these deficit/spending hawks during the Bush administration? No one can argue that the deficit is out of control, but it was in pretty rough shape during Bush II. His tax cut in the midst of massive war spending put the US firmly in the red. His curious non reporting of war costs in the budget only serviced to understate the problem. And I also seem to remember a classic pork barrell package that went out under his watch that gave money of all things to Indianapolis for light rail development.

The calls for smaller govermnent and less spending were non-existant during Bush II, which makes the current chatter seem pretty disingenuous.

Nov 03, 2010 10:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Phuzzy wrote:
Republicans are no better than the Democrats. A new sheriff is in town.

Nov 03, 2010 11:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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