Friday, July 2, 2010

The Tea Party Could Topple Roy Blunt if They Wanted To

If the St. Louis Tea Party put their full weight behind one of Roy Blunt's more conservative primary opponents, such as Chuck Purgason, they could dramatically shake up the 2010 elections and draw national attention to the state. Now it may seem strange for me to be saying this, given that I've repeatedly pointed out the dwindling crowd sizes at tea party rallies and their ineffective organizing during the Proposition A campaign. And it's true that I'm skeptical about their ability to significantly impact a general election. This is because in order to alter a general election they would need to either convince people who would normally vote for a Democrat to vote Republican, or to motivate people who normally wouldn't vote to vote Republican. Given that polls show that the tea party is overwhelmingly made up of conservative Republicans, and that this group is likely to vote in general elections anyway, I don't see any strong evidence that the tea party's organizing will be likely to affect the 2010 general elections.

On the other hand, they would be in a prime position to challenge Roy Blunt if they really put their weight behind the effort.  Check out the findings from a recent Gallup Study
Conservative Republicans outnumber moderate/liberal Republicans in the general population by about a 2-to-1 margin; among Tea Party supporters, the ratio is well more than 3 to 1. More generally, almost 8 out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans, compared to 44% of all national adults.
In other words, the segment of the population the tea party has a huge influence over is precisely the segment of the population that could determine a Republican Senate primary in the state of Missouri. The St. Louis Tea Party has already gotten a large share of media attention; if they were able to take out a powerful D.C. insider like Blunt I'm sure the resulting noise would be insufferable.

I personally think that Roy Blunt probably has a better chance of winning the general election than does Chuck Purgason. But the advantages Blunt has are precisely the things that the tea party claims to be opposed to: connections to other insiders, the ability to raise funds from large special interests who ask for favors from the government, etc. He also has a lot of conservative baggage, most notably voting for the Big Bank Bailout and for Cash for Clunkers. And consider how the Republican rhetoric could change if Purgason was their candidate:
  • They could talk about the evil of deficits without sounding like ridiculous hypocrites.
  • They could attack the idea of "political dynasties."
  • They could rail on "insiders."
  • And they'd be supporting someone who, from what I have seen, genuinely believes in the conservative ideology that the tea party claims to stand for, rather than someone who uses that ideology to preserve his own power (as candidates on both sides of the political spectrum often do).
  • Most importantly of all, they could run a statewide campaign that could be described as "grassroots" without producing fits of laughter.

  • Tea Parties in some parts of the state have already endorsed Purgason. However, in St. Louis, the support has been spotty at best. More pure conservatives like Darin Morley at Reboot Congress seem to support Purgason . On the other hand, it seems unlikely that political insiders like Gina Loudon would do anything that ruffled the feathers of the Republican establishment. As for the official "co-founders" of the St. Louis Tea Party, Dana Loesch and Bill Hennessy, they have yet to really make a full effort in support of Purgason. Both threatened Roy Blunt if he didn't endorse Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 race, but he ignored their threat. Loesch has been showing some signs of supporting Purgason, having him on as a guest on her show and expressing disappointment that Blunt has been afraid to debate the primary opponents. Hennessy, on the other hand, has been completely silent on the issue. In fact, other than using extremist rhetoric and tactics against Democratic targets, there's really been no evidence that Hennessy wants anything other than a return to the same old GOP establishment.

    I know the tea party doesn't really care what I think, but whether they care or not it seems pretty clear that they are now faced with a choice. They can endorse Roy Blunt, thereby gaining the favor of mainstream Republican insiders at the cost of any non-laughable claim to truly be a "grassoots conservative" movement. Or they can endorse Chuck Purgason in line with their stated principles but at the cost of losing Roy Blunt's huge war chest and insider support. I don't know how they'll choose (although, since I think they've been astroturf from the get-go, I have my suspicions), but it's important to point out that it is a choice for them. They have the power to replace a D.C. insider with a grassroots conservative, but it's not clear if they have the desire .


    1. Taking Blunt down may not be that easy. I would expect the St. Louis Tea Party to back Chuck Purgason if they hold true to their "values".

      After all, Blunt's ties to business PACS, lobbyists, Jack Abramoff and even Tom Delay should cause him problems. But, as we both know, voters have short memories. And Republican voters don't really seem to care either way. See Sen. Vitter, Sen. Craig and others.

      We have Loesch's past statement that their goal is to "take over the GOP" and I'm assuming that means that she'll back Purgason since she was intent on getting rid of Dede Scozzafava in NY23 and they almost pulled off that election with Doug Hoffman. And since Blunt hasn't appeared on her show, SHE WILL NOT BE DENIED!
      If you piss off Dana, she'll be on a mission to make the Blues Brothers look like minor leaguers.

      Then we have Hennessy who has this tumescent position regarding Russ Carnahan. I think this obsession he has with Carnahan would occupy his efforts during this mid-term season. Since the Tea Parties in MO have no state-wide organizational structure, I can't imagine them getting together in a common cause to bring down Blunt. Heck, Purgason could even pull a 3rd party, Libertarian act if given the opportunity.

      At best, they'll split the vote and Robin Carnahan will win in November.

    2. I don't think it's likely at all that Chuck Purgason would run 3rd Party. He's a sitting Republican state senator with 2 years of his term left.

      He ran to give conservatives a choice in the primary, probably with little thought of running as an independent.

      3rd Party candidates are not viable because the election laws preference the 2-party system.

    3. A three term Republican Senator in Utah removed at the convention because he voted for TARP is one thing, but Roy Blundt taken out in the Missouri Primary for much the same reasons will send a message to the RNC not sent or received since Ronald Reagan forced the people's will on the party three decades ago.
      And it won't be the organized effort of any identifiable organization that achieves this. It will be the ever increasing body of politically educated citizens voting out of self interest.
      Ill informed in the past but not stupid we will take this country back one primary at a time and every two years at the polls. THIS IS THE INFORMATION AGE !!! Why do you think Obama wants to take over the internet and talk radio?

    4. Anon, I think Blunt losing the primary could happen, but I doubt that it will. So far, the tea party is only putting half-hearted support behind other candidates, and there's only a month before the vote.

      Also, what do you mean when you say Obama is "trying to take over" the internet and talk radio?