This time around the Tea Parties need to be careful about who they support. In the 2010 elections, candidates were nominated who represented a very narrow slice of the electorate. American elections don’t work this way. In fact, most elections in democracies don’t work this way.
Nominating candidates based solely on their loyalty to the Tea Party movement can lead to a disaster. There are 435 seats in the House and the Tea Party-backed candidates did very well there. But in the 2010 Senate contests, the Republican Party lost at least two contests that should have been won. That’s 2% of the available seats.
Of the three possible candidates in the Nevada primary, the Republicans selected the one who represented the narrowest slice of the beliefs of Nevadans. Sending a Sharon Angle out to do battle with a heavyweight like Harry Reid was a proverbial Christians vs. the lions contest.
Angle was a one-trick pony who spent the entire campaign reading from the Tea Party talking points. She was the wrong candidate for that particular race. Despite all of that, she almost won and beat the most powerful man in the Senate. On election day, Reid defeated Angle by a margin 50.3% to 44.6%.
Delaware, a particularly moderate state, was almost an exact rerun of Nevada. Neophyte Christine O’Donnell defeated veteran Republican Congressman Mike Castle in the primary.
The Tea Party’s big beef with Castle: he was too moderate. He probably was but he was favored to win. Now, we have a competent Democrat in the seat and he’ll probably serve as long as Joe Biden did. He didn’t help that there were accusations that O’Donnell was a witch, instead of ignoring them, she felt constrained to rebut the accusations.
On November 2, 2010, O’Donnell lost the general election to Coons by a margin of 57% to 40%.
Let’s be clear. Senators serve for 6 years, a lifetime in today’s political world. Representatives are reelected every two years, there’s time to recover the lost seat before too much damage can be done. The campaign finance laws are designed to protect incumbents and don’t help insurgents.
Let me give you a classic case that is happening right now, right here. By here, I mean my home state, the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our incumbent, Senator Jim Webb (D) has decided that one term is enough for him and is retiring.
The Democrat candidate is former Governor Tim Kaine who served a stretch as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Once he chose to run, other interested Democrats were firmly “encouraged” by the White House not to enter the primary.
Meanwhile, former Senator and Governor George Allen decided that he wanted his seat back. He had been defeated by less than 10,000 votes by Webb after calling a Democrat operative “macaca” during a rally in southwest Virginia.
Actually, Allen had lost after the Washington media featured the story for over three straight weeks, including an incredible 22 straight days on either the main front page or the Metro front page of the Washington Post.
Allen now finds himself in a four-way primary with three other conservatives. The most impressive is Jamie Radtke, one of the founders of the Richmond Tea Party. Ms. Radtke who has never served in any other elected position, decided to start at the top with the Senate.
The other two candidates are Delegate Robert Marshall and E.W. Jackson. Marshall is an elected delegate in the Virginia legislature who is a hard-right conservative. Jackson is an African-American who is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Divinity School.
The four-way race will be good for Virginia Republicans as long as Allen emerges the victor. However, he is spending campaign cash while Kaine can tour the state without any pressure from the right or left.
If we are going to take control of our government, we need to elect Republicans at all levels of of it. We can’t get caught up in party squabbles where accusations fly back and forth.
If we are going to dispose of proven legislators like Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Lugar of Indiana, we can’t nominate any more candidates that can’t speak to the middle because it’s in the middle where American elections are won or lost.