What is the Tea Party? That isn’t an easy question, as the answer of what is the Tea Party depends on one’s views. What the Tea Party is to some might be a revolutionary new movement that will return America to its roots. To others, it might be a racist hate group that wants to trample over those who aren’t rich, white or Christian. But in the immediate future, the debate is over their impact in the primary elections, and the general ones to come. So what is the Tea Party — the group that will help the Republicans take Congress, or the one that will accidentally help the Democrats keep it?
That question became even more important after the Delaware primary results. The movement backed Christine O’Donnell to a stunning primary victory over moderate, establishment Republican Mike Castle. In this last night of primary contests, it was fitting that the movement got one last big victory.
What the Tea Party is right now is an important subplot in the midterm elections. In addition to O’Donnell’s win, New Hampshire’s race is too close to call between Tea Party-backed Ovide Lamontagne, and Sarah Palin-backed Kelly Ayotte. Even though Palin has become a symbol of the party, it appears even she isn’t always in lockstep with them.
Although the movement is celebrating last night’s results, the GOP now sees themselves under a greater threat. The answer of “What is the Tea Party?” to established Republicans is a major problem for November. Their candidates have already suffered upset losses in Delaware, Alaska, Kentucky, South Carolina and Utah, which has put their Senate takeover hopes in question.
The GOP needs 10 new seats to take the Senate back, so they can’t afford to lose even one close vote — or have one more favorite fall. O’Donnell’s victory has made the GOP already write off Delaware, and get into deeper in-fighting with the Tea Party. This, in turn, has given a break to Democrats, who were reeling over ominous pre-election polls.
What is the Tea Party to Democrats? They have mostly bashed the movement as racist, hateful and any other name under the sun. But if their influence becomes negative to the Republicans, and keeps them from picking up more seats, the Democrats will celebrate them to a point. Already, the Democrats have used the party as a scare tactic, to warn voters not to let them or the Republicans into power.
According to Real Clear Politics, if the election was held now, the Democrats would maintain 55 seats and win all the toss-up elections. That would be a loss, but hardly the big loss the GOP needs. If that happens, the question “What is the Tea Party?” will be an even greater, divisive issue for Republicans everywhere.
Christian Science Monitor- “Tea party is polarizing, but has many closet admirers, poll finds”
Real Clear Politics- “Battle For The Senate”
Los Angeles Times- “New Hampshire GOP Senate primary still too close to call”