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: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.
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.
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:
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 .