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 »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."