Tea Party; GOP Friend, Foe, or Foil?
Many people scoffed when the Tea Party first appeared on the political scene last year. The nascent movement was labeled “fringe” and dismissed as inconsequential. But now, more than a year and a half later, polls show around 20% of Americans claim to be a part of the Tea Party. The growth and success of the movement cannot be denied. Thus far, the GOP has been the beneficiary of the movement’s enthusiasm. But as we press nearer the November election, one serious question remains unanswered — is the Tea Party really helping or hurting the GOP?
When the movement originally began to gather steam, certain prominent figures in the Republican Party took notice and positioned themselves to leverage the excitement. Former House Majority Leader, Dick Armey was amongst the first, throwing the support of his FreedomWorks behind the Tea Party, he embraced the movement and helped craft their “Contract from America” in time for “Tax Day” 2009.
Sarah Palin was another early proponent. The former Republican candidate for vice president actually resigned her post as Governor of Alaska three months after the “Contract” was formed and soon thereafter became a vocal advocate of the movement. The half-term governor solidified her position as co-figurehead of the movement, sharing her influence with Fox News political barker Glen Beck, when she appeared as the keynote speaker at the Tea Party’s inaugural convention this past February.
The first fruits of the movement were harvested shortly before the convention, when Scott Brown rode a Tea Party endorsement into being the first Republican elected to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since 1972. Tea Partiers basked in the glory of the first successful candidate, but in certain ways, the thrill was short-lived. Being more than a little moderate for the Tea Party, before February was done, Brown split from the GOP and became one of five Republicans to vote in favor of the jobs bill.
Since February, much more has happened. Sarah Palin has been fully engaged in the Tea Party speaking tour, often handing out her sought after endorsement and amassing a respectable record of primary victories. To date, Palin has made 43 endorsements of which 24 have been for Tea Party candidates, and 23 have been women and 21 men. She’s presently batting nearly .700 with 25 victories and only 11 losses, and just over half of the wins were by Tea Partiers.Continued on the next page