Republican Insiders to Tea Party: You’re Not Helping Us

Democrats are egging on tea-party challengers, while Republicans are all but begging them to stand down.

One of the most visible tea partiers, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, waits for an elevator off the Senate floor on Thursday.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
Dec. 13, 2013, 6:21 a.m.

For Demo­crats, the tea party is the gift that keeps on giv­ing. For Re­pub­lic­ans, the group is something akin to a flesh-eat­ing vir­us that threatens to chomp away at the GOP.

The civil war between es­tab­lish­ment and tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans in­tens­i­fied this week when House Speak­er John Boehner slammed out­side con­ser­vat­ive groups for “ri­dicu­lous” push­back against the bi­par­tis­an budget agree­ment, which cleared his cham­ber Thursday. Tea-party-sym­path­et­ic or­gan­iz­a­tions, Boehner later said, are “push­ing our mem­bers in places where they don’t want to be.”

Wash­ing­ton in­siders agree. Sixty-five per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an in­flu­en­cers on the Hill called tea-party chal­lengers to Re­pub­lic­an law­makers “very un­help­ful” to the GOP, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tion­al Journ­al Polit­ic­al In­siders poll pub­lished Fri­day. Their pres­ence on the cam­paign trail leads to fur­ther splin­ter­ing of the Grand Old Party, whose widen­ing rift between es­tab­lish­ment and tea-party mem­bers has not gone un­noticed by both Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ents and the gen­er­al pub­lic. “Let’s shoot at the op­pos­i­tion, not our own troops,” one In­sider pleaded. “Most Re­pub­lic­ans think they’re idi­ots,” said an­oth­er.

On the oth­er hand, 78 per­cent of Demo­crat­ic In­siders find tea-party chal­lengers to be “very help­ful.” Demo­crats de­pend on ul­tracon­ser­vat­ives can­did­ates like Steve Stock­man, who is tak­ing great pains to la­bel his Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent for a Sen­ate seat in Texas, Sen. John Cornyn, a lib­er­al. For them, a di­vided Re­pub­lic­an party means more legroom for Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates to sweep voters fed up with ideo­lo­gic­al de­bates.

Polit­ic­al fig­ures like Stock­man do the job of drag­ging the na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an im­age away from the main­stream — and voters — for the Demo­crats. With midterm elec­tions more than 10 months away, there’s still time for more tea-party chal­lengers to step up to the po­di­um and ex­acer­bate the situ­ation. “For every Rand Paul and Marco Ru­bio, you get five Ken Bucks and Todd Akins,” said one in­sider in the poll.

Come next Novem­ber, the biggest tea-party sup­port­ers could be the lib­er­als they want to squash. “We should be form­ing in­de­pend­ent-ex­pendit­ure com­mit­tees and su­per PACs to sup­port any tea parti­er in­ter­ested in tak­ing on Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bents,” joked a Demo­crat­ic In­sider. An­oth­er summed up simply, “Thank you, Steve Stock­man.”

What We're Following See More »
McMullin Leads in New Utah Poll
5 hours ago

Evan McMul­lin came out on top in a Emer­son Col­lege poll of Utah with 31% of the vote. Donald Trump came in second with 27%, while Hillary Clin­ton took third with 24%. Gary John­son re­ceived 5% of the vote in the sur­vey.

Quinnipiac Has Clinton Up by 7
5 hours ago

A new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll finds Hillary Clin­ton lead­ing Donald Trump by seven percentage points, 47%-40%. Trump’s “lead among men and white voters all but” van­ished from the uni­versity’s early Oc­to­ber poll. A new PPRI/Brook­ings sur­vey shows a much bigger lead, with Clinton up 51%-36%. And an IBD/TIPP poll leans the other way, showing a vir­tu­al dead heat, with Trump tak­ing 41% of the vote to Clin­ton’s 40% in a four-way match­up.

Trump: I’ll Accept the Results “If I Win”
6 hours ago
Duterte Throws His Lot in with China
9 hours ago

During a state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "declared an end to his country’s strategic alignment with the United States and pledged cooperation with Beijing." Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he's "realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world—China, Philippines, and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Hatch Considering 2018 Re-election Run
10 hours ago

Reports say that Orrin Hatch, who in 2012 declared that he would retire at the end of his term, is considering going back on that pledge to run for an eighth term. Hatch, who is the longest serving Republican in the Senate, is unlikely to make any official declaration until after this election cycle is completed.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.