Ted Cruz’s stunning 14-percentage-point victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Tuesday’s runoff for the Texas Republican Senate nomination gives the tea party explosive momentum heading into the remaining primaries nationwide and the November general elections…
“Anyone who wanted to question whether the tea party concept and ideals played out in 2010, I think you can argue they just got started in 2010,” said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative, free-market group. “And 2012 is a clear indication the tea party is alive and well and growing.”
Cruz received critical endorsements and millions of dollars’ worth of contributions and other forms of support from the likes of Gov. Palin, who campaigned for him; Tea Party hero and fundraising powerhouse Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; the D.C.-based Tea Party group FreedomWorks, which is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey; the anti-tax, pro-free market group Club for Growth, whose top executive is former Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Pa.; conservative columnist and ABC News commentator George F. Will; and National Review, the venerated magazine founded by the late William F. Buckley, Jr.
Ted Cruz, in short, was an establishment candidate in his own right.
“It is time to think differently about the Tea Party,” said Darrell West, a political scientist at the Brookings Institution. “In the early days, the Tea Party was basically a grassroots movement, didn’t have a lot of prominent people behind them, didn’t have a lot of money. But now they have big money. They can bring outside resources into a state election, and prove to be very decisive. So they are getting institutionalized as a movement: They have major political figures who are behind them; they have money that is behind them. So they have emerged as a different type of ‘establishment’ organization.
Cruz undoubtedly embraced the tea party movement, which rightly deserves a hearty share of the credit for his feat.
But Robert George, who taught Cruz constitutional law during Cruz’s undergraduate work at Princeton, said he would caution against simply branding him a pot-stirrer.
George sees Cruz more likely molding himself into a gray beard of sorts who sets out to accomplish big policy goals and is the point man on constitutional questions…
“Folks would say the tea party is rough about the edges. You can’t say that about Ted. He’s incredibly committed to the cause, but he’s smooth, polished and very articulate,” Elliott said. “It’s clear they’ve already identified him as someone who is going to join the leadership core in the U.S. Senate, perhaps for the next 20 or 30 years.”
Original Tea Partiers, who remember the days mass rallies and colonial outfits, say they don’t miss that chaotic moment. The newer, more efficient movement fits their needs.
“I don’t look at it as institutionalization, I look at it as getting the job done,” said Amy Kremer of Tea Party Express. “All that matters is that Ted Cruz is victorious. All that matters in November is that we take the White House and the Senate.”…
For a movement that has prided itself for the three years of its lifespan on being anti-establishment, the Tea Party — thanks to the slick abilities and organization of groups like FreedomWorks — is becoming its own establishment, kind of a counter-establishment on the right.
“It’s all about the credibility too – because we take on the party, that gives us this credibility,” Brendan Steinhauser said, adding that “We’re not afraid to bloody up their noses.”
“These guys [newly elected Tea Party candidates]” are going to force Romney to the right,” said Andrea Shell, a spokeswoman for Tea Party group Freedom Works. “That is our entire mission.”…
“If we can elect a really conservative House and Senate that will force Romney to go along with our bold conservative agenda,” Shell said. “He’s going to have to really, really go to the right. He’ll be working with guys in the House and Senate. He won’t be able to get away with too many middle of the road policies, especially on things like the deficit.”…
“It’s not going to be a Romney driven presidency,” Norman Orenstein, a researcher at the conservative think tank AEI recently told ABC News. “It’s going to be a Congressional, conservative, Republican driven presidency from Congress.”
DeMint argues the more tea party movement-backed senators, the less gridlock.
“(When) Ted Cruz comes in … I think he can help empower some of the Democrats to make those hard decisions,” DeMint told CNN.
The South Carolina lawmaker believes the more staunch conservatives in the Senate, the more Democrats will be forced to compromise and come the GOP’s way.
“I think there are enough Democrats, if we have a strong mandate election, who will work with people like Ted Cruz and (Sen.) Marco Rubio and (Sen.) Pat Toomey and these senators here, in a sensible way to change the course of our country,” said DeMint. “The good news is this: because the rest of the world is in such bad shape, if we make a few hard decisions about fixing our tax code, fixing our entitlements so that we’re on a sustainable course, America could be the best place to do business overnight.”
Some are already sensing a shift in the attitude of the Senate leadership.
“I notice that Mitch McConnell is speaking at a Tea Party rally soon,” Mr. Mourdock said in an interview on Wednesday. Mr. Mourdock campaigned with Mr. Cruz, who told him, he said, that he had taken his inspiration from Mr. Mourdock’s insurgent campaign in Indiana.
“Just the fact that the Republican leadership is willing to reach out to those folks is important,” Mr. Mourdock said. “If that kind of coalition comes together, on Day 1 it will be if not a literal majority a real large majority, and I think on Day 1 we will jump right into the frying pan.”
A final point here: One of the most underreported stories of this presidential election is how the Republican brand is in FAR WORSE shape than the Democratic brand. In our most recent NBC/WSJ poll, the GOP’s fav/unfav was 34%-43% vs. the Democrats’ 40%-40%. Indeed, the GOP has had a worse fav/unfav than the Democrats in every single NBC/WSJ poll (that’s 14 of them!!!) since Jan. 2011, after Republicans won control of the House. So as the Tea Party/grassroots/anti-establishment conservative wing of the GOP has become MORE powerful, the GOP’s overall brand image has gone down, especially with indies. It is hard not to believe these two facts aren’t connected. And this raises the question: Will this be a drag on Romney? Or here’s another way to put it: How can this not be a drag on him? Help us out with this riddle: When was the last time a presidential candidate won when their party was viewed MORE unfavorably than the other side?