The Ohio tea party's fracturing of the state GOP could be a serious worry, we noted last Friday, if the harsh rhetoric is followed by real action. Today, a report in the Columbus Dispatch shows just how bad things have gotten in the Buckeye State.
Tea party groups, writes Joe Hallett, are considering three options: a clean split (either to form a new party or join another), primary challenges to "anybody who every crossed us" or under-voting to punish Republicans who don't pass the tea party litmus test.
It isn't clear how or when such actions would materialize, partly because the tea party lacks a single identifiable leader and is made up of factions of its own. But the open disgust with establishment Republicans from county GOP leaders, social conservatives and groups like Americans for Prosperity suggests the growing chorus of anger isn't an idle threat.
Tom Zawistowski, who lost the race for Ohio GOP chair to an establishment-picked candidate, met Saturday with the Constitution Party's head to discuss a possible merger. And tea partiers point to tepid Republican support for Gov. John Kasich's proposed Medicaid expansion as a sign they can wield the power of "threat" to garner enough votes to undermine his agenda.
Again, there's no definite plan of action, but the talk of specific options -- all designed to punish establishment Republicans -- suggests the tea party rage amounts to more than just fist-shaking. It's unclear what, if anything, can bring tea partiers back on board, but surely their revolt has GOP operatives worried as they gear up for 2014.