El Rushbo: News of Tea Party demise greatly exaggerated

RushTeaPrimary Day in North Carolina was not a great one for bona-fide conservatives.  Many — including this writer — have wondered aloud since then about whether the grassroots zeal and fire of 2009-2010 had petered out in The Tar Heel State in 2014.

There has been some piling on Greg Brannon.  That’s a shame.  Brannon has always been a class act.  He is an outstanding individual — personally and professionally — who would represent us well in any role.  It was spun from the beginning that Brannon was a long-shot who had no chance.  It has come out — after the Tuesday vote — that Speaker Thom had been polling at 16 percent in the primary field before Karl Rove turned on the cash spigot.

Brannon was done in by an entrenched GOP establishment in DC and Raleigh that fought hard to protect one of their own.  He was done in by some less-than-stellar campaign strategy and management.  Most significantly, he was done in by depending too much on a statewide Tea Party movement that likes to gripe about government but isn’t crazy about doing the grunt work — putting out signs, knocking on doors, raising money, getting out the vote, and turning up at the polls. Let’s not forget the national Tea Party groups who raise millions but dole out a pittance here and a pittance there.  

Turnout numbers were dismal.  The low-information voters who saw all those TV ads during commercial breaks for The View and Wheel of Fortune turned out.  The mad-as-hell folks who have been ranting and raving for change didn’t.  

Trading Rs for Ds and Ds for Rs is not going to save the state and country.  We can all sit around and talk a good game about saving the state and country.  But we won’t accomplish much if we don’t organize like the other side does.  We need to keep the ideas alive — and sell them to the rest of America.  We don’t need to keep playing the game of letting the hacks take their turn at raiding our wallets. 

The Great One, the CEO of the EIB Network, had some words of encouragement for folks disappointed in Tuesday’s results: 


North Carolina is thought to hold the key election determining who will control the Senate, the Republicans or the Democrats, particularly the Kay Hagan race. So there was a big election this past Tuesday, and there was a Tea Party candidate that a lot of people supported who got handily defeated by what is considered to be an establishment toady.  […]

I know some Tea Party people.  The Tea Party, by the way, is not a party.  It’s a name.  The Tea Party is a coalition of grassroots activists that have just come together.  There is no official Tea Party.  They’re idea people and they’re not totally unified on everything, but they’re identifiable as people who are fed up with the establishment of both parties, including the Republican Party. 

They’re fed up with the spending.  They’re fed up with out of-control-Washington.  They’re fed up with growth of government.  They’re fed up with that.  This Senate race in North Carolina, I talked to a lot of people who would call themselves Tea Party people or sympathizers who were not particularly in favor of the supposed Tea Party candidate there.  But that’s not the race in North Carolina that’s really explanatory. 

The media is taking that Senate race in North Carolina and, predictably, they’re running with the news that the Tea Party’s dead, that it doesn’t exist, that all these powerful people came out and endorsed this candidate, and they went down in flames.  It’s the end of Ted Cruz. It’s the end of Mike Lee. You Tea Party people may as well just give up and either join the Republican Party establishment or shut up and go home.  I mean, that’s the tenor of the coverage, and it’s actually quite different. 

There happened to be another election in North Carolina on Tuesday that is far more representative than the Senate race was.  And that was North Carolina Third District, where the incumbent is a Republican, Walter Jones.  The Democrats and the establishment types in the Republican Party went in there, there was a combined one million dollars spent on a single district race to get rid of the 20-year incumbent, Walter Jones, and they failed.  And that is the true indicator of the strength of the Tea Party and of, I would say, the weakness of the establishment. 

The Republican establishment wanted to get rid of Walter Jones because he went against the leadership on the debt limit vote and a couple of other really defining things.  So the leadership, quite naturally, was out to get him. The Democrats piled on, they wanted his seat, and it went up in flames.  Walter Jones held on. […]

 I’ll guarantee you Walter Jones was supported by Tea Party voters, and he won.  “Proportionally, more money was spent in the 3rd District primary than was spent on the US Senate primary when compared to candidate spending. The disparity is even greater when you factor in the cost of the 3rd District media market versus the cost of statewide media buys. […]

“Why did this race attract such big money in a primary? Walter Jones is a 20-year incumbent, first getting elected to Congress in 1994 after having served multiple terms in the state legislature. Jones has had a record that can best be described as independent. He is solidly conservative on social issues.” A social issues conservative won!  They tell you that can’t be done, either.  “He has opposed increasing the debt limit and the bailouts Congress passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.”

So he’s conservative on the financial side as well.  This last, by the way, is why the leadership is unhappy with him.  “What appears to be his biggest flaw to his colleagues in D.C. (but not his voters) was his falling out with the House leadership. This resulted in his being removed from his seat on the Financial Services Committee. He was one of several GOP members removed from committee assignments immediately after the 2012 elections,” ’cause he was considered to be — well, not traitorous, but he had strayed from the shackles of the leadership.

“The 2014 campaign against Jones looks like an attempt to send a message to other potential House GOP –” this is what’s key about it.  We’re told that the Tea Party House Republicans don’t have a prayer because of what happened in this Senate race.  We’re told the media’s got the Tea Party buried and these Tea Party House freshmen and other young Turks that are Tea Party, “You guys, your days are gone, the Tea Party’s finished.”  And the point here is that this campaign against Walter Jones looked like an attempt to send a message to other potential Republican renegades, that the leadership and the D.C. establishment could come after you and beat you, and they did, but they didn’t. 

They came after Walter Jones with big money, and they failed.  And I think that race is a little bit more indicative, A, of the strength of the Tea Party, B, public moods and attitudes, and a predictor of future elections in North Carolina than what happened in that Senate primary.  The establishment’s guy in North Carolina, Tillis I think was his name, he didn’t even get 50%, with all the backing that the D.C. establishment and the consultant class, he didn’t even get 50%.  It was pretty split. 

[…]  I’m telling you, they came after Walter Jones big time ’cause he just angered the leadership, and they threw a DC establishment inside-the-Beltway guy at him, and the Republican establishment was aligned with the Democrats trying to get rid of Walter Jones, and they both failed, with a million dollars, in a single congressional race. 

Walter Jones, known for bucking the leadership on the debt limit. Known to be a prominent social conservative.  Violated every tenet.  There’s no way this guy should have won. If America has become what they want you to believe it has, there was no way Walter Jones wins, and he did.