The tea party came to town Tuesday night -- and headed right to the favorite precincts of Washington's power elite, hats in hand.
A swanky fundraiser in the heart of Georgetown salon country gave two GOP Senate insurgents -- Nevada's Sharron Angle and Florida's Marco Rubio -- a chance to rub shoulders with some of the same Beltway types they have been eviscerating on the campaign trail.
The two were among a handful of GOP candidates feted at a private fundraiser at Washington Harbour -- and yes, they spell it like the Brits do -- in Georgetown.
The swanky apartment complex fronts on K Street -- also known as "lobbyists' row" -- and overlooks the Potomac River. Here's hoping no one caught the famous fever.
There was plenty of irony to go around. One of the hosts for the evening was GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who backed Florida Gov. Charlie Crist over Rubio -- until Crist saw the writing on the GOP primary wall and bailed to run as an independent. As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is a member of the very Republican establishment that Angle was caught railing against in a recording leaked this week to Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston.
Guests paid $5,000 apiece for a chance to mingle with the candidates in an apartment owned by Bob and Suzy Pence. Bob Pence is a real estate developer and board member for the Washington branch of the World Affairs Council. He's also a major campaign donor who has contributed more than $117,000 to GOP candidates and campaign committees for this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.
Angle, who pulled up in the backseat of a white Chrysler 300, waited in the car a few minutes before hustling into the building.
Apparently uninterested in talking to another (unconcealed) recorder, Angle blew right past a reporter on her way into the fundraiser. Other guests were more chatty -- and willing to give her a pass on her violation of the late President Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment against speaking ill of a fellow Republican.
"What Sharron Angle is saying as far as Washington elites, I hear that all across Virginia," said former Virginia GOP Sen. George Allen on his way in, careful to delineate GOP senators from that indictment.
"The people who are here -- whether it's [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell or Jim DeMint [R-S.C.] or John Thune [R-S.D.] -- all of those folks would be thrilled to have reinforcements to bolster their efforts to get this country going on the right track."
"She needs to raise money to get her message out, and I'm happy to help her," Allen said, adding that he had buckarooed on a Nevada ranch in his youth.
Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican whose out-of-nowhere win in January has provided a template for this year's GOP long-shots, said he was on hand to get to know folks he hopes will soon be colleagues.
"I'm here, actually, to meet everybody for the first time," Brown told the National Journal. "I'm the new guy, and I need other new people up there to hold the line on taxes and spending and our debt. So I'm just eager to get new people in there."
Other Republican Senate candidates in attendance: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rep. John Boozman of Arkansas, and Sen. Dan Coats, the former Indiana senator who's running to get his old seat back.
Two guests, speaking on condition of anonymity, provided a rundown on some of the speeches: Rubio addressed the national debt and the country's bond rating.
Brown delivered a pep talk about his own improbable victory in a special election earlier this year that gave Republicans the seat held for 47 years by liberal stalwart Sen. Edward Kennedy.
"He said, 'If you can do it in Massachusetts, you can do it anywhere,'" one guest reported. "He was a lot like Sinatra -- except from Massachusetts."
After the candidates spoke, the event was opened to questions. No one queried Angle about her criticism of national Republicans and she did not address them during her brief remarks, the two attendees said.
A third-party rival, Scott Ashjian, clandestinely recorded a meeting with Angle in which she said Republicans had "lost their standards; they've lost their principles" and appeared to appeal to Ashjian to drop out of the race. Ashjian is running as a tea party candidate but the Tea Party Express, a national organization that backs Angle, has called him a spoiler.
Angle was not the only one of the fundraiser beneficiaries who ducked a chance to meet the press.
"I don't have time right now. I'm running late here," said Coats on his way into the event at 6:19 p.m., 11 minutes before the start time provided to the National Journal by one of the young, well-dressed greeters in the downstairs lobby.
This article appears in the October 9, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.