The good news for Carly Fiorina is that she was picked to give the Republican’s nationally broadcast response to President Obama’s weekly radio address.
The bad news is that she was picked by national Republicans.
At a time when Tea Party populist conservatives are aggressively challenging GOP establishment types around the nation, the enthusiastic support for her primary Senate campaign by top Republicans like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who tapped her for last Saturday’s radio gig, is both a blessing and a curse.
For backers of Hurricane Carly’s right-wing rival, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, the move by McConnell was just more evidence that GOP Beltway poobahs are out of touch with the anger, energy and passion of the anti-Obama, anti-government, anti-health care reform, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant, anti-gay rights true believer movement.
“The NRSC has not learned its lesson. The Republican establishment has not learned its lesson,” the popular conservative blogger and DeVore supporter Erick Erickson wrote at RedState.com after Fiorina’s appearance, which was sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee . “Where the establishment goes, we should all be worried. Just as they led us from 55 seats to 40 seats in the Senate and just as they are leading us off a cliff in the Senate through failed messaging tactics, the establishment is going to lead us off a cliff in 2010.”
As Calbuzz has reported, the Fiorina-DeVore conflict for the right to challenge Senator Barbara Boxer is the clearest manifestation in California of the Republican’s internal strife, which surfaced in a big way in a special congressional election in New York and now is playing out in statewide primary campaigns in Florida and Texas.
The Tea Party movement first appeared in anti-tax demonstrations across the country on April 15, grew louder in summertime town hall protests against health care reform and has sustained the birther movement accusing Obama of not being an American citizen. While conventional wisdom has held that the expected support of Tea Partiers for Republican candidates would be a key factor in helping the GOP rack up major gains in the 2010 mid-term congressional elections, there are a number of signs that grassroots right wingers are growing restive with the national party.
For starters, right-wing diva and presidential wannabe Sarah Palin, who has assiduously courted the populist conservative crusaders, has started making noises about breaking away from the Republican party. Palin told conservative talk show host Lars Larson this week that she is leaving the door open for a third party presidential bid in 2012, implicitly warning GOP leaders to start paying Tea Partiers more mind: “If the Republican party gets back to that [conservative] base, I think our party is going to be stronger and there’s not going to be a need for a third party, but I’ll play that by ear in these coming months, coming years,” she said.
For national Republicans, such a scenario triggers memories of 1992, when Ross Perot’s third party bid, founded on a deficit hawk, anti-government spending platform, effectively cost President George Bush I a second term and put Bill Clinton in the White House. While still somewhat far-fetched, the Palin third party notion comes amid other evidence of GOP internal strife.
Most notable is a new Rasmussen poll reporting that “running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.” While we’ve taken issue with Rasmussen on some questions of methodology their new survey is the first, fun-with-numbers snapshot that seeks to quantify the strength of the grassroots effort.
The poll asked responders to assume that the group was organized as a new political party*, then posed a three-way generic ballot test. In a one-day, random dialing survey of 1,000 undefined “likely voters” across the nation, Rasmussen found that the Democrat candidate favored by 36%, with the hypothetical Tea Partier coming in second at 23%, the Republican bringing up the rear at 18% and the rest undecided (without the Tea Party in the mix, the poll found a generic GOP candidate leading the Democrat 43-to-39).
One other nugget from the survey for political junkies to ponder, keeping in mind that the rap on Rasmussen is that their polls tend to have a pro-Republican bent: “73% of Republican voters believe their leaders in Washington are out of touch with the party base.”
How much difference all this ultimately makes in the challenge to Fiorina by DeVore, a Tea Party favorite, remains to be seen, of course. iCarly must still be considered the favorite, despite recent polls showing the two tied, because of her expected considerable advantage in money.
But grassroots right-wing advocates show no sign of relaxing their push to attack ideologically challenged colleagues in the Republican party. Tea Party founder Dick Armey recently proposed a 10-point litmus test for GOP candidates, which will be debated at the Republican National Committee meeting early next year, and which makes even some very conservative commentators shudder, including the estimable Eric Hogue.
I agree that we, as conservative members of the Republican Party, have been lied to, teased and ignored by wound-up political professionals, but I am not sure that incorporating a litmus test is the way to go…
This desperate litmus test is self-defeating, and frankly, a little disturbing. The test is anti-Republican, both in construct and in ethic. Republicans are about freedom, not about toeing some party line under threat of expulsion. If you want top-down authority from your political party, go be a Democrat…or a Communist.
Not to put too fine a point on it.
*Rasmussen included this disclaimer in reporting on the Tea Party poll: “For this survey, the respondents were asked to assume that the Tea Party movement organized as a new political party. In practical terms, it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process – written by Republicans and Democrats – provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties. The more conventional route in the United States is for a potential third-party force to overtake one of the existing parties.”