The myth of the lousy Tea Party candidate?

posted at 3:36 pm on October 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve heard this refrain all during the midterm primaries and general election cycle this year: the Tea Party has pushed inexperienced candidates into Congressional and Senate races who are unprepared for public office and therefore weaken the GOP.  Brendan Nyhan decided to take a look at the actual data, rather than the assumptions in the media, to see whether GOP candidates are somehow less prepared to run for public office due to inexperience — and came to a surprising conclusion:

When we examine the data, it’s clear that the favorable electoral environment has attracted a strong group of Republican candidates. Despite the influence of the Tea Party movement, the GOP actually has more House candidates who have previously held elected office running for open seats than the Democrats do …

Similarly, there are significantly more Republicans who have previously held electoral office challenging incumbents in potentially competitive districts than Democrats (defined as districts in which the presidential nominee of the incumbent’s party received less than 60% of the two-party vote in the most recent election) …

In short, the Tea Party movement has affiliated itself with a surprising number of non-amateur politicians in competitive and open-seat races. As a result, the GOP still has a candidate quality advantage in the House races that matter most.

Nyhan charts the historical data for competitive House elections going back to 1992.  As this chart from Nyhan shows, not only have Republicans traditionally fielded more experienced candidates in competitive seats, but that the trend has rapidly increased in the last two election cycles:

The slight disadvantage in 2006 would have resulted from the difficulty in recruiting candidates for office in what was turning into an obviously big year for Democrats.  Interestingly, the Democrats’ experience quotient in this cycle hasn’t dropped at all from 2008 despite the predictions of a massive tsunami for the GOP this November.  The sudden surge in experienced candidates for the GOP shows how enticing this cycle is for Republicans looking to win a House seat, as well as the Tea Party’s grassroots efforts have found them.

Dave Weigel says that unbalanced media coverage is  to blame for the misconception:

If this is surprising, a lot of that has to do with 1) a weird occasional media focus on noncompetitive races and 2) the ability of some smart politicians to brand themselves as “Tea Party” candidates. Marco Rubio, for example, could have run in a previous year as a savvy politician mentored by Jeb Bush. Instead, he introduced himself as the Tea Party in one man. Same happened with Ken Buck, a seasoned local politician who simply defined himself against a politician who’d held a higher office.

As to that first issue, I’m continually surprised that fringe candidates like Ohio’s Richard Iott get so much attention; his penchant for dressing up as a Nazi is, of course, weird and stupid, but he never had a chance of winning. I’d add a bit to Nyhan’s model, because the Tea Party has swung behind some first-time candidates in House races, mostly businessmen, who are going to win where token candidates used to lose.

The “weird media focus” on non-competitive races isn’t accidental.  First, it’s easy to write articles about oddballs; the stories write themselves.  They also give reporters an opportunity to paint an entire political movement as fringe by ensuring that the focus remains on the strange, which is exactly what happens with most mainstream media reporting of Tea Party rallies.  Howard Kurtz wrote about that very phenomenon earlier this week.

Another point should be made, however.  While having campaign experience helps candidates avoid mistakes and improve their messaging, it’s only one measure of a candidate’s quality.  I’d rather have a novice candidate like Ron Johnson in Wisconsin running in defense of free-market principles than a big-government “compassionate conservative” who will continue to push for higher spending, higher debt, and expanded government regulation.  Furthermore, in a cycle like this, a Ron Johnson has a good chance at beating the entrenched incumbent (in this case Russ Feingold), as Weigel notes in a general sense.

Beyond that, though, Nyhan’s analysis shows that the Tea Party has actually produced a higher level of preparation for Republican candidates than either party has in the last 20 years, at least in competitive districts.  Will the media start reporting that?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Why would one take anything Weigel says seriously?

publiuspen on October 22, 2010 at 3:40 PM

“Republicans have 90% fewer Marxist candidates than Democraps. Film at 11:00.”

Akzed on October 22, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Michael Barone explained it this way

Kini on October 22, 2010 at 3:43 PM

It’s not a myth, it’s propaganda!

zmdavid on October 22, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Despite the influence of the Tea Party movement, the GOP actually has more House candidates who have previously held elected office running for open seats than the Democrats do

racists
inexperienced

extreme
puppy killers

Those Tea Partiers sure are extremist puppy killers! yeah yeah!
/msm/cnn/npr/abc/msnbc

ted c on October 22, 2010 at 3:46 PM

This sounds like a repeat of Barrone.

Rocks on October 22, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Despite the influence of the Tea Party movement, the GOP actually has more House candidates who have previously held elected office running for open seats than the Democrats do

Alvin Greene comes to mind.

UltimateBob on October 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM

This doesn’t require a model.

There is really no tea party.

TEA PARTY SUPPORTERS ARE ACTUALLY THE SILENT MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WHO ARE TIRED OF THEIR CORRUPT AND INEPT GOVERNMENT … R AND … specially D! [the Democrats have miscalculated the anger of the Tea Party supporters!]

In fact, at least 50% of the Tea Party Supporters ARE INDIES!

Hardliner Republicans are in fact anti-Tea Party because they have to protect their own interests from their incumbent R politician-friends/relatives!

That’s my general observation!

TheAlamos on October 22, 2010 at 3:53 PM

“…I’m continually surprised that fringe candidates like Ohio’s Richard Iott get so much attention; his penchant for dressing up as a Nazi is, of course, weird and stupid, but he never had a chance of winning…”

This is the sort of fair and unbiased press that candidates such as Rich Iott have been getting from the usual former journalistic enterprises such as NBC, CBS, ABC, and the masthead newspapers.

Having spoken with Rich Iott this past week, he is neither weird nor stupid…nor of the fringe. As for that now famous photo…Rich is an amateur historian, as are thousands and thousands of other Americans, and is involved in military re-enacting. If the major Synagogues in NW Ohio have no problem at all with Rich Iott, and thousands and thousands of Ohioans have no problem with Rich Iott…why does a bunch of so-called journalists who don’t even live anywhere near Ohio have such a big problem with him?

As for his opponent…28-year office holder Marcie Kaptur…well, she is no longer shoe-in for re-election. Iott’s “army” is getting out the vote, and so is Rich. Marcie? Can only be found amonst the well-to-do crowd these days. Unless you are a rich donor or a senior union hack, she no longer has time for us…the little people.

She can (and by God’s grace, will) be defeated in eleven days.

coldwarrior on October 22, 2010 at 4:02 PM

TheAlamos on October 22, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Good observation. One of the few that are right on. No talking head has figured it out yet.

One other thing that no one takes into account. We are looking for a few people that actually have and live by their principles.

BetseyRoss on October 22, 2010 at 4:08 PM

I’d rather have the “The Rents too —-high” candidate win than the NEW YORK RULING CLASS Messiah Andrew III (he’ll be the 3rd Andrew in the White House you see)!!!!

People can be goods regardless of party.

PappyD61 on October 22, 2010 at 4:12 PM

gooFs not goods (iPhone keypad, gggggrrrr).

PappyD61 on October 22, 2010 at 4:13 PM

It’s schadenfreudig to see the daily top headlines of the Assoc. Press on Yahoo and elsewhere.

They are trying extremely hard to distort reality. It’s fun to see them so delusional and distraught.

Schadenfreude on October 22, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Marco Rubio, for example, could have run in a previous year as a savvy politician mentored by Jeb Bush. Instead, he introduced himself as the Tea Party in one man.

Marco Rubio is an exceptional candidate, and will make a great Senator, and possibly more in the future. But what is Jeb Bush doing these days, besides mentoring Marco Rubio? He should have run for Senate in 2006, and should definitely run in 2012 against Bill Nelson.

Steve Z on October 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM

It’s schadenfreudig to see the daily top headlines of the Assoc. Press on Yahoo and elsewhere.

They are trying extremely hard to distort reality. It’s fun to see them so delusional and distraught.

Schadenfreude on October 22, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Yes. It is satisfying in a sad sort of way to see these pathetic creatures try to justify their recent jump off the cliff into hero worship and blatantly false reportage in order to propel the Jug-eared One into his flailing, failing presidency.

Better the last smile than the first laughter. Schadenfreudig, indeed.

hillbillyjim on October 22, 2010 at 4:29 PM

If the mainstream Republican candidates for these seats from 2 or 6 years ago were better than the “Tea Party” candidates we have now, how come Democrats currently hold the seats?

forest on October 22, 2010 at 4:29 PM

I just read on yahoo news that the Democrats think they have hit on the one word that will save them this election…. Extreme.They sure use it a lot but isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?No racism implied….

sandee on October 22, 2010 at 4:31 PM

Misleading.

There is a difference between the House and the Senate. House candidates are and were chosen organically. The local Tea Parties supported local candidates of their choosing and the House races look fantastic.

The Senate is a different story. This is where amateur outside Tea Party elements interjected themselves into foreign territory and projected their values and preferences. Internet activists looked at position papers without understanding candidate histories and local dynamics. In the process, they did push underwhelming candidates over the finish line. There was a reason many of these candidates were never on the map before outsiders got involved – because they were never appealing enough to win over the locals.

Conservatives cant have it both ways. They cant talk about the great conservative wave. The great momentum and then justify leading a bunch of races that shouldn’t be close by one or two points. I am not saying they are bad people or bad conservatives, but many are inexperienced, poor communicators and have certain deficiencies.

I am for the Tea Parties, local organic grass roots movements like they should be. Not these national amateur groups running interference in states they don’t understand and making messes.

The analysis is correct as it applies to the House, not the Seante.

swamp_yankee on October 22, 2010 at 6:17 PM

Yes, and it’s about time some of the GOP establishment realize that their attitudes toward many of the candidates is noted. The most oft heard word in debates? Extreme. Why are there not GOP regulars explaining exactly why the ideas are NOT extreme, nor are the candidates.

The media is now turning every blip in the elections as “evidence” that the teaparty candidates are stupid. And I’m not seeing much defense from the establishment.

That’s a big mistake.

AnninCA on October 23, 2010 at 9:49 AM

If you think Rand Paul, Maes, and O’Donnell are strong candidates, you really need to put the crack pipe down and get help.

Miller seems on the verge of blowing it in Alaska, too.

Adjoran on October 23, 2010 at 2:15 PM