Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
GOP fears their Tea Party Republicans
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s lunge for water got more attention than anything he said, and that was understandable since he didn’t say much of note. He characterized President Obama’s State of the Union speech as a call for more spending when the president explicitly said government cannot do everything, and offered proposals that wouldn’t cost taxpayers money.
On the same day that Rubio delivered his speech decrying government and extolling capitalism, he cast his vote against the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the Senate with a vote of 78 to 22. For the reputed savior of the Republican Party to line up with the minority of the minority on legislation important to women doesn’t change much of anything for the GOP.
Rubio was elected as a Tea Party favorite, but the Tea Party Express had its own star pupil, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., deliver a separate response to the State of the Union. Aside from coverage pointing out that Rubio and Paul basically offered the same small government conservative message, Paul’s post-SOU address went mostly unnoticed.
The good news for Republicans is that these two senators did not play out their differences for everybody to see on Tuesday night. But the fact that they were polite for a single evening doesn’t mean that there aren’t real conflicts within the Republican Party. At the heart of the GOP’s problem is the fact that Republicans made a pact with the Tea Party to win the Congress in 2010, and they’ve been paying for it ever since.
The Tea Party and its radical candidates cost the Republicans control of the Senate in 2010 and 2012, and now saner voices in the party are trying to wrest back candidate recruitment from the Tea Party. Leading the effort is Karl Rove, whose newly formed Conservative Victory Project aims to weed out candidates likely to implode on the campaign trail and say what they really think. Rove’s effort is getting a lot of pushback from all kinds of conservative groups, and it’s not clear whether his project will survive. Rove, like his mentor, Lee Atwater, gained fame as Pres. George W. Bush’s heavy-handed political operative.
But Rove’s scorecard in 2012 was extremely disappointing to the donors who gave him money, and they may very well take a look at this latest effort and conclude that Rove’s approach to politics has run its course.
The wedge issues that carried Republicans to the White House in the past have shifted, and the GOP seems at a loss about what to champion next. Watching Rubio deliver his remarks in both English and Spanish, one thing that seems certain, the GOP won’t be pushing for English only anymore, just one of many divisive cultural issues that are now a dead letter.
The divide within the Republican Party is evident with Rubio and Paul, however much they downplay their differences. Both are likely presidential contenders in 2016. By then, Rubio will have frayed his Tea Party credentials in an effort to make the GOP look modern and in touch with the American people.
The Tea Party has run its course with the voters, but within the GOP, it still wields power. They say there are two kinds of Republicans in Congress, the Tea Party, and those who are afraid of the Tea Party, spurred by their fear of opposition in a primary. Republicans are far more fearful of Tea Party challengers than they are of Democrats.
Fear of being “primaried” is the phenomenon driving all sorts of bizarre Republican behavior on Capitol Hill from South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham’s determined focus to defeat President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Defense, to Texas Senator John Cornyn’s vote against former Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State. Cornyn was one of three no votes, along with Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and Texas freshman Ted Cruz, a Tea Party darling who has Cornyn worried about a primary challenge. The Tea Party has lost ground, but it still has Republicans running scared.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND