What the Tea Party Cost

November 4th, 2010 at 10:03 pm David Frum | 41 Comments |

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John Avlon has an important column today:

In Nevada, voters elected as governor the pro-choice Republican Brian Sandoval at the same time as they rejected Republican senatorial candidate, Sharron Angle. Avlon points out:

[R]oughly 20 percent of Sandoval’s voters split their ticket to support Harry Reid rather than Sharron Angle when it came to the Senate. She might have raised $15 million in national activist cash last quarter, but for one-fifth of Nevada voters—even with 14 percent unemployment—Sharron Angle was simply too extreme to send to the Senate.

How badly did Christine O’Donnell perform in Delaware? This badly:

[T]thanks to the fact that Democrat-leaning Delaware only has one congressional seat, it’s possible to make an apples-to-apples comparison of their election prowess. In the Democratic midterm wave year of 2006, the Republican Castle won re-election with 57 percent of the total. In this week’s Republican wave, O’Donnell won only 40 percent of the vote, for her third Senate defeat in five years.

And more :

The Tea Party movement can be considered a Western conservative movement but in the archetypal western state of Colorado—home to many early Tea Party chapters—the wheels came off the Tea Party Express. It’s not just that centrist Democrat and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was elected governor with 51 percent of the popular vote—it’s that the Tea Party insurgent and GOP nominee Dan Maes got only 11 percent of the total. His vote was split by the even more conservative former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who has developed an unprecedented record of ugliness and incitement but still managed to seem comparatively responsible next to Maes and captured 37 percent of the vote—as well as Sarah Palin’s endorsement.

But the real marquee loss for Colorado conservatives came from Tea Party favorite Ken Buck, a social and fiscal conservative who seemed poised to win the seat from the uninspiring incumbent Michael Bennet, who had been appointed to the post only 20 months ago. Bennet was decidedly centrist, having to fight off a Democratic primary challenger from the left, and the former Denver school’s superintendant (and investment banker) didn’t exactly reek of the mountain west. But as statements about Buck questioning the constitutionality of separation of church and state surfaced—and Bennet ran ads pointing out Buck’s opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest—the Democrat defeated the Republican to hold onto the Senate seat, aided no doubt by Hickenlooper’s strength at the top of the ticket.

Read it all, and weep.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • jeffpeterson

    David, you’ve really got to let this go. The Republican failure to take the Senate is a feature, not a bug, for two reasons: 1) It denies the President the ability to run against a “do-nothing Republican Congress” reincarnate. 2) Given the seats up for re-election in 2012, Republicans have operational control of the Senate without nominal responsibility, as Fred Barnes and Jen Rubin detail: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/rubin/380271.

  • Rabiner

    Jeff:

    If you had 50 instead of 47 or even 51 seats than achieving 60 in 2012 was a possibility. No way the Republicans can pick up 13 seats in 2012 and that means they cannot repeal Health Care Reform since Democrats will filibuster.

  • anniemargret

    As I’m writing this, Vanderhei is speaking to Anderson Cooper about Palin and her influence with the TP and her testy, combative and negative influence with establishment Republicanism. If you are talking about the ‘costs’ to the GOP, then look no further than her.

    Could she win the nomination? Sure…her fans are not impressed with ‘gravitas,’ ‘knowledge,’ or an ability to speak extemporaneously off her script or off Fox. The bar is set low for Palin.

    As a Democrat, I hope she runs for all the obvious reasons. As an American, I am appalled at the level to which we have come in this country for the gravest position of political power in the world, if we must actually countenance such a person like her reaching it.

  • chlai88

    I have a good respect for u Mr Frum for bucking the popular but self-destructive trends in your own party. But you don’t have to be sad. After the election, we’re now seeing the rise of a liberal version of the tea party, equally as crazed & pumped up, waiting to eat Obama & the right alive. Brace yourself. This madness can only get worse.

  • LauraNo

    I think at least some of the tea parties realized they would hurt republicans at the voting booth but this was their chance to finally say to the GOP, do those things you always tell us you will do! I don’t agree with any of their ‘policies’, nor republican’s but I don’t blame people for being angry and insistent that the people they vote for should actually represent them. I don’t know why they ever voted for Bush, ‘compassionate conservatism’ (what an oxymoron) was code for ‘gonna spend a lot of money’. Why it’s ok when an approved (accepted as a member of cult) leader does it instead of when an unapproved (other) might do it is inexplicable to me. It is now 2010 and we have a rather large group of people still mired in the 1950′s, whether they live in a trailer or are head of a large corporation. These are the people republicans must appeal to, Mr. Frum. Lecturing and hectoring is probably not going to help your cause but I concede you don’t have much alternative. Inmates are taking over.

  • CD-Host

    Rabiner –

    Why filibuster. Just veto. Democrats should be thrilled to make Republicans take all sorts of unpopular votes. One of the advantages of not owning the swing districts is that now Republicans have to worry about the damned if you do, damned if you don’t votes.

  • SkepticalIdealist

    Obama would get the blame even if the Republicans controlled both houses of congress. You guys are acting as if facts matter. They don’t. His aspirations for a 2nd term will rise and fall with the economy. Period.

  • antron

    CD-Host-
    Rabiner means even if Obama looses, they can filibuster. He is talking about after 2012.

    jeffpeterson-
    Dems can say the same thing about loosing the House. Now the problems yet to come are not all their fault. Have you seen the foreclosure rates?

  • LauraNo

    chlai88 , I’d like to know what liberal version of the tea party you think you’re seeing because I am clueless. The dems are as usual useless and weak, as always, intimidated by the bullies. I don’t see whatever you do. If you are referring to progressives, I have to say I only hear the usual outrage and the usual frustration and liberals understand we don’t have a party to hold to account. So.

  • Rabiner

    Cd-Host:

    Antron got what I was saying. In the event Obama loses, now Democrats will have at least 40 seats in the Senate to stall legislation akin to what happened this Congress.

  • raymond

    Rabiner:

    Oh yea because allll of the moderate Republicans we would have nominated and would have won instead of the Tea Party candidates would all definitely vote for a repeal of Obamacare. I doubt that.

  • midcon

    Folks continue to make it all about the Dems and the Repubs as if each has an indentity and life of its own. The error that pundits, the press, bloggers and others make is that neither party is monolithic and neither are the voters. Yes there are many who mindlessly mark their ballot based on the single identifier (D) or (R) but there are more voters that actually consider the individual candidate and who and what they are. There is also a large segment that may traditionally vote for (D) or (R) but have no objection to crossing the line when they are convinced the nation and themselves are better served by someone in the opposite party.

    The 112 Congress will act according to the individual members convictions and needs (to be relected). Understanding what motivates the members is essential to understanding how they will act. A GOP majority in the House has the ability to set an agenda but not control the outcome. And while they have a majority for the next two years, maintaining that majority will be highly dependent on how much they do versus how much they try to undo.

  • CD-Host

    Antron got what I was saying. In the event Obama loses, now Democrats will have at least 40 seats in the Senate to stall legislation akin to what happened this Congress.

    OK well here is my guess. After the Bush years and the frustration with Democratic filibusters, and seeing their own defense most likely if Obama were to lose in 2012 the Republicans would have retaken the senate and the rules they vote in for the start of 2013 don’t include the filibuster.

  • CD-Host

    midcon –

    there are more voters that actually consider the individual candidate

    Actually at least at the house level that no longer appears to be the case. Many of the house members who lost had been in power since ’76 and were well liked. Because of the move away from the committee system and having more idealogical parties, people see the House as very much like a parliamentary system and vote for the program not the candidates.

    If what you were saying were true you would have seen some correlation between votes yes or no on Obamacare, yes or no on cap and trade on the election outcome. There just wasn’t much correlation at the house level at all.

    On the Senate level, what you are saying still applies. And if the Boehner brings back the committee system like he said he would it might go back to applying.

  • Stewardship

    A corollary is what happened in California. Prop. 23 (kill the climate change law) was supported by tea party funders, the Koch brothers. The backlash from California voters most likely made the difference between Barbara Boxer keeping her seat and Carly Fiorina ‘taking’ for the R’s. Fiorina moved to the ‘right’ on the issue, too, incorrectly sensing that the ten’s of millions of dollars that Exxon, Valero and other companies were spending to push Prop. 23 would help her campaign.

    Prop. 23 was defeated by a wider margin than the losses of either Whitman or Fiorina…one must consider the case that Jerry Brown and Boxer road the coattails of the pro-environment vote.

  • CD-Host

    Stewardship –

    Good point in terms of turnout. The Dems won by a lot. But I think if Fiorina had been able to run much further to the left, for example not being pro-life, she could have won; but that’s been the problem with the CA Republican party for the last 20 years they think they are in Alabama.

  • CentristNYer

    I don’t know whether Fiorina precisely qualifies as a “tea party” candidate, but she certainly was embraced by them (and Palin) during the primary and that probably gave her the lift she needed to knock off Tom Campbell, a centrist who seemed much more electable in a state like California.

    Remember when he debated his opponents and he was the only one who thought that there should be restrictions on the purchase of handguns by people on the “no fly” list?

    http://www.frumforum.com/fiorina-and-devore-let-no-fly-list-suspects-purchase-guns

    One has to wonder again whether the GOP might have scored this important Senate seat had they nominated someone who wasn’t so beholden to the NRA.

  • CO Independent

    This post is beyond idiotic. Fiorina, McMahon, Rossi, Raese, Wargotz, Townsend, Huffman–all establishment Republican moderates who lost big time. Yet somehow Frum considers it a crisis that O’ Donnell lost in Delaware? (Hey Frum, maybe it would have helped if your blog hadn’t been running 2-3 hit pieces per day on O’Donnell right up to election day.) And it’s hard to fault Angle when moderate Fiorina can’t take down Boxer.

    Who is John Avlon?

    His take on the Colorado race was completely off the mark. Maes was never much of a Tea Party candidate, nor was Ken Buck. Maes won the Republican nomination only because the hand-picked candidate of the moderate Republican establishment had a little plagiarism problem discovered right before the primary that rendered him unelectable. Maes won the nomination almost by default. Buck came up short but not by much, exactly like Rossi.

    The Republican party’s problems in Colorado are threefold. First, a massive influx of people from California in the past 15 years, many of whom brought their party affiliations with them. Second, huge sums of money are flowing into Democratic coffers from Gill, Pollard, and the Strykers. Third, the Republican party establishment here is so hopelessly dysfunctional that they can’t field decent candidates. The Tea Party has nothing to do with Republican shortcomings in Colorado. Major fail by Avlon.

  • CentristNYer

    CO Independent // Nov 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

    “Maes was never much of a Tea Party candidate, nor was Ken Buck.”

    Initially, both were fairly closely identified with the TP (although Buck seemed to lose some support when he ridiculed its birthers). But even if they backed away from Maes, didn’t they run to Tancredo, which cost Maes the race?

  • Franco

    Apparently the only Republican “weeping” is Mr. Frum. This is his real sentiment, his cover is pretending that Republicans could have done better generally. Of course, this argument only works if you live in a fantasyland. Had Republicans nominated and backed Castle, Specter (remember him David?) Crist and others, the GOP would have never won a majority in the House and any Senate pickups would have been easily undermined by these Castle/Crist/Specter type moles. The Tea Party would be a third party and the GOP would be dead in 2012 . Perhaps this is what Frum really wants. I can see no other explaination. Frum isn’t as stupid as his analysis appears so he must have some other agenda for spouting this nonsense.

    Me? I’m thrilled! Mike Castle is through and the statists in the GOP are revealed for what they are. The next congress will be considerably more conservative and will continue the REAL argument.

    BTW, Frum hasn’t mentioned anything about “winning over independent voters” for a while…how come?

  • Rabiner

    CD-Host:

    “OK well here is my guess. After the Bush years and the frustration with Democratic filibusters, and seeing their own defense most likely if Obama were to lose in 2012 the Republicans would have retaken the senate and the rules they vote in for the start of 2013 don’t include the filibuster.”

    Republicans I doubt would do that for one reason: precedence. Too many moderate Republicans wouldn’t vote to eliminate the filibuster but they would vote to break a Democratic filibuster.

  • easton

    Fred Barnes should get checked for Alzheimers:

    It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

    Some of it might be true if Republicans actually had any intention of cutting spending (ie entitlements) and how much do you want to bet the Democrats don’t want to touch that area at all either. And what the hell does scaling back Obamacare even mean? Go back to insurance companies being able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, or dropping premium holders for bogus reasons, or the yearly double digit rate rises?

    As to extending the cuts, Democrats want to extend the cuts for the Middle Class. If Democrats were to permanently cut the taxes for the middle class and temporarily extend it for the rich could Republicans possibly vote no? If they vote yes, in 2 years they will have to push for tax cuts for the rich only. Good luck with that. If they vote no then…well, they will lose again.

    I personally like divided government, it means both sides have to either put up or shut up.

  • CD-Host

    Rab –

    Too many moderate Republicans wouldn’t vote to eliminate the filibuster but they would vote to break a Democratic filibuster.

    You are forgetting that one vote takes only 50 (to not have it at the start of the session) while breaking one takes 60. The days of independents rewarding moderates are over.

  • Rewena

    “I personally like divided government, it means both sides have to either put up or shut up.”

    And to get more specific I think I have decided – I prefer it with a Democratic President and Republican congress.

  • TobyTucker

    Jeez, enough with the carping. Sure, the nascent Tea Party made a few missteps but you cannot deny the help they provided in so many other races. Try to imagine what things would look like if they had all stayed home. Pretty grim, eh?

    I remain convinced that while Angle and O’Donnell were poor candidates, any Republican in those races was facing certain failure. And Colorado was a basket case from the get-go as others have documented.

    Control of the Senate is actually more of a disadvantage as it gives Obama a perfect foil à la Truman, so just get over it. With the huge influx of Republicans in the various statehouses and governorships, we are very well situated for 2012. And best of all the liberal/progressive/socialist/marxist agenda Obama has been promoting is stopped dead in it’s tracks. Whether we can undo the damage already caused and restore this country’s economic well-being at the same time is the challenge facing us. Recriminations and finger-pointing over what could’ve/would’ve been and probably never was accomplishes nothing remotely positive.

  • hgus

    Mr. Frum,

    I saw you on Jon Stewart this week and you stated that you are staying in the republican party even though the party no longer represents your beliefs (if i misstated, my apologies).

    From what i saw in this election, i don’t understand that.

    In Colorado, 26% of voters chose a proposition that arguably would have made “the pill” illegal. At the risk of generalizing, is it possible that any one of those voters is a Democrat? The fact that the other 74% voted against this bill tells me that those 26% are way outside of the mainstream of the country, but active voting members of the republican party.

    If that generalization is true, and the country is split 50-50. Then simple math would dictate that these extremist now represent 52% of the republican party (way more than enough to dictate the winner in virtually all republican primaries) From my perspective, no republican has a chance of winning a republican primary without pandering to these extremists.

    In short the republican party has and continues to become increasingly radicalized and it will get worse. I respect the concept of trying to fix the problems from the inside, but at what point does one recognize that the battle is already over and realize that control cannot be wrestled back?

    Am I wrong when i say, “by the numbers, reasonable republicans cannot retake control of the party”?

    From what i have seen, reasonable republicans are being wiped out (you even stated that you have been asked to leave the party). Based on his actual record, if Reagan were around today, I would bet he would be challenged from the right and be called a “Republican in name only”.

    To me, it seems clear that the Neo-conservatives have beaten the reasonable republicans in this battle and unless reasonable republicans leave the party, the country may not have a chance to actually win the war.

    How do reasonable republicans plan to take back the party, or at what point should they stop by the post office and fill out a new voter registration card?

  • CO Independent

    @CentristNY

    >> Initially, both were fairly closely identified with the TP (although Buck seemed to lose some support when he ridiculed its birthers).

    It may have looked that way from NY, but this is not accurate.

    >> But even if they backed away from Maes, didn’t they run to Tancredo, which cost Maes the race?
    I’m not sure what you mean by this. As I said in my initial post, Maes never had a chance. He was an unheard of nobody with some very loose ties to the Republican party. I don’t believe he had ever held a public office or run a business of any size. He won the Republican nomination only because McInnis has his little plagiarism problem.

  • balconesfault

    hgus – excellent analysis

    It’s my belief that the GOP is being held together today only because there are “tax cut conservatives” who are willing to ally themselves with ANYONE if they’re promised a reduction in their tax bill (John Boehner might be the poster boy for this type of Republican if you read his bio) … and some handful of moderate conservatives who still mythologize the Democratic Party as a bunch of pot smoking flower children spitting on US soldiers as they return home from combat. These two groups may have absolutely no respect for positions like “make contraception illegal”, but they’ll vote for candidates who think that way if the alternative has a (D) next to his name.

    “Looking out for #1″ politics and tribal politics.

  • easton

    “liberal/progressive/socialist/marxist agenda Obama” um…yeah, as opposed to the Conservative/traditional/corporatist/Nazi agenda of the Republican party?

    Look, Tobytucker, knock off the asinine hyperbole because it makes you look like an idiot.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    CD-Host: “But I think if Fiorina had been able to run much further to the left, for example not being pro-life, she could have won.”

    There was no way in the world Fiorina or Whitman were going to win in CA no matter what their positions are on abortion or any other social issue. The GOP is toxic in CA because of its Prop. 187 and because of the national GOP brand. For the same reasons you pointed out to Midcon regarding votes for a program versus an individual candidate, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the GOP to win a state-wide office in CA.

    Moreover, both Whitman and Fiorina were terrible candidates for their respective positions. Neither of them was qualified to do the job they sought.

  • CO Independent

    @ hgus,

    >> In Colorado, 26% of voters chose a proposition that arguably would have made “the pill” illegal.

    I don’t know where you hear that garbage but it is ridiculous, at least if “the pill” to which you refer is the birth control pill. This ballot proposal was a “personhood” amendment which extended due process rights to a fetus in the womb. The pill prevents an embryo from forming. Therefore, this ballot proposal had no impact on the pill.

    Here’s a link to the ballotpedia entry for the proposal:
    http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Colorado_Fetal_Personhood,_Amendment_62_(2010)

  • TobyTucker

    @Easton

    “as opposed to the Conservative/traditional/corporatist/Nazi agenda”

    A corollary to to Godwin’s law states that: Whomsoever invokes Hitler and Nazis in an argument has by default admitted said argument is lost beyond redemption, as you so ably demonstrate.
    BTW race cards are now on sale at K-Mart, 2/$3.00. Be sure to stock up!

    “Look, Tobytucker, knock off the asinine hyperbole because it makes you look like an idiot.”

    Typical lefty/wingnut tactic, when all else fails go with the ad hominem attack. Really, is that all you’ve got?

  • hgus

    @Co-independent.

    Actually, i am pretty sure you are mistaken on this (but i could be wrong). The law as i understand it stipulates that the personhood would begin at “biological development”. Which certainly could imply conception (and certainly there are a lot of extremist conservatives who believe and support this position). The pill works by changing the body’s hormones to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting. Which as I see it, represents – after the egg has begun to “biologically develop” (fertilized).

    But lets assume that you are right and i am wrong and look at the larger point. My point wasn’t to debate the merits of this bill, mainstream America (or at least Colorado voters) rejected that by a 3 to 1 margin.

    The larger issue that i see is the 26% of the population fighting to implement the strictest anti-abortion legislation in the country are extremist and represent 52% of the republican party.

    Are you debating the point that these 26% who voted for this legislation are a) extremist or b) Republican ? Are you arguing that the republican party has not been overpowered by the neo-conservatives and that the republican party stands for the same issues it did just 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago?

    That was the larger point, i intended to make (if my example is inaccurate or distracted from my from my point, that was not my intent and I apologize).

  • CentristNYer

    CO Independent // Nov 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    “It [Buck's identification with the tea party] may have looked that way from NY, but this is not accurate.”

    From the Washington Post:

    “‘The tea party was huge in my success in the primary,’ Buck said in an appearance on the ABC/Washington Post ‘Top Line’ program.”

    Sorry, CO, but I don’t think was just a New York perception.

  • Rabiner

    CO Independant:

    The ‘Pill’ that was referred to was probably not birth control but the morning-after pill. Since the initiative could of been interpreted to mean the moment of conception.

  • TobyTucker

    @SpartacusIsNotDead

    “Moreover, both Whitman and Fiorina were terrible candidates for their respective positions. Neither of them was qualified to do the job they sought.”

    Perhaps, but I didn’t see a whole slew of “qualified” candidates jumping into the fray. More importantly, I didn’t see anyone who could garner the financial resources necessary. The fact that they could self-finance was the only thing in their favor. I agree with you that no GOP candidate could have won in CA (other than someone so squishy you could barely tell they were Republican). What California needs is a super Chris Christie but what they chose was Gov Moonbeam. To borrow a metaphor, CA is that car in the ditch and the guy they elected is going to set the damn thing on fire. It’s just so sad.

  • CO Independent

    @hgus

    >> Actually, i am pretty sure you are mistaken on this (but i could be wrong). The law as i understand it stipulates that the personhood would begin at “biological development”. Which certainly could imply conception (and certainly there are a lot of extremist conservatives who believe and support this position). The pill works by changing the body’s hormones to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting. Which as I see it, represents – after the egg has begun to “biologically develop” (fertilized).

    The pill works primarily by preventing the release of eggs (ovulation).
    http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/0663.html

    This ballot proposal was targeted at abortion, not at the pill.

    Sorry, I didn’t really read your larger point because your initial statements were so hyperbolic and stupid I just kind of stopped reading there. When you start your argument by being incorrect on both the science and the law it is pretty hard to take you seriously.

    @ Centrist NY

    Nice selective cut, dude. Uh, read the next effin’ line in the article
    >> Buck said that he and members of the tea party are in agreement “on most issues” and that he “absolutely” wants their support in the general election. But he cautioned that he sees himself not as a tea party candidate, but as a “grassroots candidate.”

    Buy hey, I’m sure you know better than I do. I mean, I just live here and watched the campaign on a daily basis.

  • mpolito

    Avlon may be right about the Tea Party, but he and Frum are now going too far. To blame the ‘Tea Party’ is not the same as blaming ‘pro-lifers.’ If Avlon or Frum thinks Fiorina lost because she was pro-life, both are delusional (and if Frum thinks his friend Tom Campbell would have done better, he is even more delusional). I’m perfectly open to a critique of the ‘Tea Party’; I did not support nominating Angle, Buck, or O’Donnell. But the problem in these cases was not the issue of abortion, or any other ‘social issue’ that Frum and co. always like to blame for GOP defeats. How does Frum explain the Iowa vote against judicial retention? It is very hard to interpret that vote as anything but a vote against redefining marriage. GOP state legislators in NC, PA, and IN, will now be able to bring marriage amendments to the floor; they campaigned on this, and it did not cost them control of their chambers. I think David overstates his case on this one.

  • hgus

    @co-independent.

    I can see that i have touched on an issue that you feel strongly about. So let me use other examples.

    58% of republicans believe or are not sure that Obama was not born in the United States.
    46% or republicans believe Obama is a Muslim.
    67% of republicans believe Obama is a Socialist
    51% of republicans believe Obama wants to turn the USA over to a world government.
    22% of republicans believe Obama wants the terrorists to win
    38% of republicans believe Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”

    These are insane beliefs, so taking away the issue of abortion, the question still holds. Any one of those groups (including the group at 22%) could have a very good shot to get their candidate nominated in any republican primary.

    Is it possible for reasonable republicans to wrestle back control of their party or have the extremist in the party won control?

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