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Primary Election Results Fallout- Maybe TEA Parties Should Not Endorse?

May 5th, 2010 Matt View Comments
Dave Yost checks election results with Ohio GOP’s Political Director Jonathan Gormley and Victory Field Staffer Richael Williams

The headlines I was worried about seeing today were printed.

From the Dayton Daily News:

Tea Party’s influence ‘overrated’ in Husted, Morgan primary races

Landslide Republican primary victories by state Sen. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, and Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost on Tuesday, May 4, indicated that expectations about the Tea Party’s influence were overrated, political scientist John Green said Tuesday, May 4.

“Activism doesn’t necessarily turn into votes,” said Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Husted was crushing former Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O’Brien, 68 percent to 32 percent, to win the GOP’s secretary of state nomination, while Yost was thumping state Rep. Seth Morgan, R-Huber Heights, 64 percent to 36 percent, to win the auditor’s nomination with 84 percent of precincts reporting.

And from the Plain Dealer:

Lee Fisher, Third Frontier win big in Ohio; Tea Party effect minimal and voters deny many local school taxes

And from elderly Joe Hallett in the Dispatch:

In a battle of Democratic titans for the party’s Senate nomination, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner but emerged relatively empty-pocketed for the fall campaign against a well-heeled Republican nominee, former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman.

With 98 percent of the statewide vote counted, Fisher was 10 points ahead of Brunner on a night that rendered the budding Tea Party’s bark louder than its bite in targeted Republican races for state auditor and secretary of state.

In the contest for auditor, the Ohio GOP-endorsed candidate, Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost, handily defeated Dayton-area state Rep. Seth Morgan, who relied on Tea Party rallies and Internet outreach to appeal to Republican voters. Yost, who benefited from state party-sponsored mailings and television ads in the campaign’s stretch run, held a 30-point lead en route to victory.

His nomination reaffirmed the power of the Ohio GOP to deliver victory for its endorsed candidates and exposed the Tea Party as a weak player. Although Morgan was endorsed by the Tea Party, Yost said he received “substantial support” from its members.

The TEA Party movement was born out of a general distrust of big government, and has grown organically through individuals organizing rallies and protests. It is a true exercise in the libertarian concept of spontaneous order, as there are truly no leaders of the TEA Party movement… and yet they collectively make things a nightmare for Congressional Democrats… With successes in rallying support to take former Senator Ted Kennedy’s Seat in Massachusetts and making such a convincing argument on healthcare that President Obama, a long-time advocate of single payer socialized healthcare, was forced to limp away from the debate only with Mitt Romney-inspired insurance mandates.

However, we see problems when supposed TEA Party groups start endorsing candidates… These 501c3s, 501c4s, and PACs are frequently run by Republican operatives who open the sails trying to elect imperfect candidates with that momentum, while making money in the process.

So the problem here is that the “TEA Party” wasn’t really in the race yesterday. Instead, Ohio had imperfect people- a wacky, unserious lady from Ashtabula and and a true movement conservative from Huber Heights- attempt to win elections based on their support for the TEA Party’s general frustrations with government. On top of that, just anyone who wasn’t an incumbent Republican county or state central committee member got to claim they truly represented the “TEA Party” and use that movement to settle personal scores and inner-party battles which existed long before Rick Santelli was a pundit on CNBC.

In politics, perception is reality. And just like plenty of candidates unsuccessfully tried to present themselves as the living embodiment of all-things-TEA, political reporters are only going to report on which candidates are screaming “TEA” the loudest. Never mind that Dave Yost, a candidate for a state-wide office which majority of Ohioans don’t know exists, has spoken at numerous tea party rallies and is true Buckley-style conservative. Never mind that plenty of new conservatives unexpected won central committee races. Never mind that a young conservative named Nathan Larger pulled up an upset for the 24th House District. And never mind that more than 100,000 additional votes were cast for a relatively unknown gubernatorial candidate named John Kasich than the incumbent Governor of Ohio. Never mind was a former tax-raising political named Jon Husted forced to run the most conservative-sounding state-wide TV ads imaginable. Never mind Mike Wilson, the founder of the Cincinatti Tea Party won the primary for the 28th House District. Never mind that candidates who publicly declared themselves sympathetic to the active TEA Party movement won 21 of 66 Republican State Central Committee races. The TEA Party is dead, because the liberal MSM says so!

The truth is, the anti-tax smaller-government movement is far bigger than any individual personalities. Our candidates since the days of Barry Goldwater in 1964 have lost a lot of elections and government has grown exponentially. But that doesn’t mean it is time to give up. And I pity the politician who, in the era of Obama, doesn’t fear the growing distrust of central planning and obtrusive policies.

And as for the Ohio Republican Party staff, they should be congratulated. With such low turn out, they understood that absentee voting in Ohio is becoming quite common as Election Day in Ohio is quickly becoming “Election Month.” They worked hard to for their endorsed candidates and for incumbent State Central Committees and had a hell of a motivation to do so: THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL, AND IF JOHN KASICH WINS, KEVIN DEWINE WON’T BE OHIO GOP CHAIRMAN BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR. Having a strong showing was a way for the Ohio GOP staff to maintain the established order and keep their jobs.

Last night, the TEA Party didn’t win or lose- but individual candidates did. Dave Yost won, yet opponent David Pepper has more than $700k to spend. And the Ohio GOP lost, as they failed to understand the perception game of the TEA Party movement and found every conceivable way imaginable to endlessly annoy TEA party organizations. And the Ohio GOP, with a heavy emphasis on “coalition building”, is so sloppy in its messaging and strategy that they couldn’t win favor with a movement born out of opposition to liberalism and in support of the fiscal platform of the Republican Party.

In the end, Ohio remains a center-right state and activists will always matter. Candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, will continue to frame the debate in language of tax-cuts and economic growth. And TEA Party, along with wide-spread voter disillusionment, will continue to define the political landscape for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

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