Tea party plans to abandon GOP stars

Associated Press

Tea Party activists rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on June 19. The movement’s top strategists concede the tea party is quieter today, by design. It has matured, they said, from a protest movement to a political movement. Large-scale rallies have given way to strategic letter-writing and phone-banking campaigns to push or oppose legislative agendas in Washington and state capitals.

MIAMI — This wasn't the revolution the tea party had in mind.

Four years ago, the movement and its potent mix of anger and populism persuaded thousands of costumed and sign-waving conservatives to protest the ballooning deficit and President Obama's health care law. It swept a crop of no-compromise lawmakers into Congress and governor's offices and transformed political up-and-comers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, into household names.

But as many tea party stars seek re-election next year and Rubio considers a 2016 presidential run, conservative activists are finding themselves at a crossroads. Many of their standard-bearers have embraced more moderate positions on bedrock issues such as immigration and health care, broadening their appeal in swing states but dampening grass-roots passion.

"They keep sticking their finger in the eyes of the guys who got them elected," said Ralph King, a co-founder of the Cleveland Tea Party Patriots. "A lot of people are feeling betrayed."

The tea party is a loosely knit web of activists, and some are hoping to rekindle the fire with 2014 primary challenges to wayward Republicans. But many more say they plan to sit out high-profile races in some important swing states next year, a move that GOP leaders fear could imperil the re-election prospects of former tea party luminaries, including the governors of Florida and Ohio.

"It changes the playing field for us," said Tom Gaitens, former Florida director of FreedomWorks, a political action committee that has spent millions of dollars to help tea party candidates. "The most powerful thing we have as a movement is our feet and our vote."

In the summer of 2009, tea party supporters stormed congressional town hall meetings, shouting down lawmakers who had voted for the bank bailout and the stimulus package. The movement's voice grew louder after Democrats passed the health care overhaul, and voters took their outrage to the polls in 2010. The tea party wave stunned Democrats and many moderate Republicans, sweeping the GOP into control of the House and changing the balance of power in many statehouses.

But not long after some tea party stars took office, political analysts said, they were forced to adapt to a changing landscape, particularly in states Obama won in 2012, and to the realities of governing.

The tea party also fell out of favor with many people. At its height after the 2010 elections, a CBS News poll found that 31 percent of those surveyed considered themselves tea party supporters. A May survey found just 24 percent identified with the movement.

Facing sagging approval ratings, tea party Republicans, some of whom were elected by slim margins, shifted tactics.

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, a former health care company executive who won office by attacking the health law and calling for deep cuts to state spending, later endorsed the health law and signed one of the largest budgets in state history, complete with pay raises for teachers. Similarly, Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, and Rick Snyder, R-Mich., are battling their GOP-dominated legislatures to expand Medicaid, a big part of the health law.

Tea party supporters were most struck by Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants. His personal story and unlikely rise to power made him perhaps the most prominent figure in the movement.

As a Senate candidate in 2010, he denounced as "amnesty" any plan that would offer a path to citizenship for those who were in the country illegally. Yet in recent months, he has emerged as a leader of a bipartisan Senate group that developed a plan that includes such a provision. The plan has been panned by conservatives but ultimately could bolster Rubio's standing with Hispanics, a growing demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years.

One sweltering July day, a half-dozen tea party protesters gathered under a tree in front of Rubio's Miami office, seeking shade as they denounced his support for an immigration overhaul. But the protest soon turned into more of a support group, with the four men and two women grousing to each other about how Rubio had turned into a "back-stabber," a "liar" and a "flip-flopper."

Juan Fiol, a real estate broker who organized the protest, kept looking at his phone, waiting for calls from fellow tea party supporters that never came.

"It was supposed to be a big event," he said as he waved a large "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

The movement's top strategists acknowledge the tea party is quieter today, by design. It has matured, they said, from a protest movement to a political movement. Large-scale rallies have given way to strategic letter-writing and phone-banking campaigns to push or oppose legislative agendas in Washington and state capitals. In Michigan and Ohio, for example, leaders have battled the implementation of the president's health law and the adoption of "Common Core" state school standards.

Local activists say they have focused largely on their own communities since Obama's re-election and the ideological drift of some tea party-backed politicians. Many are running for school boards, county commissions and city councils, focusing on issues such as unfunded pension liabilities and sewer system repairs.

"The positions that people are filling at the local levels are more important for the future of the movement and the future of the country," said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella organization. "It's creating a farm team for the future."

The Republican establishment, however, is concerned about 2014. Party leaders worry about the GOP's most passionate advocates walking away, particularly those supporters angered by the Senate's immigration bill. In a nod to the tea party, business and conservative groups have launched ad campaigns recasting the bill as a national security measure.

The conservative American Action Network spent $750,000 on pro-reform commercials. One ad aimed at Florida voters called the legislation "the toughest border security plan ever passed by Congress" and urged viewers to thank Rubio for "keeping his promise and fighting to secure the border."

National tea party leaders hope to re-energize followers by focusing on two of the movement's chief targets: the Internal Revenue Service and the health law. They said the Obama administration had handed them a recruiting tool when it delayed the law's implementation and when the IRS singled out tea party groups and other conservative political organizations for special scrutiny.

"The very issues that brought us together in the first place are emerging as more center stage than they were in 2009 and 2010," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks. "That animates the political conversation and mobilizes our grass roots going into the 2014 election."

Some Republicans are also moving to repair their relationships with the movement.

Rubio recently spoke to about 50 conservative activists and other lawmakers at a meeting of the Senate's tea party caucus. Organizers said he breezed past immigration, instead devoting much of his speech to repealing the health law.

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Comments

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The attic

Years ago, wealthy people who had a crazy relative would hide them in the attic rather than let everybody know there was insanity in the bloodline as Edgar Allen Poe readers know well. The Republican party has a crazy uncle living in the attic who has escaped and taken over the house. Call it Tea Party or Libertarian, they are the Goldwater remnants . The creepy voice in the dark. Their goal is to make everyone else like them if they have to burn the house down to do it.

Steve  Dosh's picture

SssSHSh Claire . 15:00

SssSHSh Claire . 15:00 Monday
He is still from AZ also and his name is John McCain
He could be from KY ( John Mc Connell )
ME Susan ?
/s Steve :D
" You ain't blue grass until you blew grass "

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Claire, I rather resent the jab at Libertarians

We are NOT tea partiers. Although some of our ideas may be similar they stop when it comes to infringing on personal liberties, hence the name.
We are in support of GLBT rights and marriage, a woman's right to choose, legalization of marijuana and many other liberal issues. We support these causes not because we all personally agree with them (I happen to be one of those that do) but because they are areas where the government has no business putting it's nose. We do not believe that the US government has the right, or the responsibility, to stuff it's beliefs down the throats of other countries, we believe in a smaller military, and some of us actually think that immigration reform is a good idea if only because Americans seem to have lost their entrepreneurial zeal and believe that the only ones who can save it are immigrants with a dream.
Personal Liberty without government oversight is our biggest concern...Form the perspective of a real Libertarian, there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, one wants more government involvement in our lives, one wants big business to run our lives. Both are bad.

Do some reading, http://www.mondopolitico.com/ideologies/libertarianism/whatislibertarian... before you go lumping Libertarians in with religious fundamentalist whack jobs which is what most of the tea party has been reduced to.

Thanks

TIMOTHY OLEHOWSKI's picture

We may have had differences

We may have had differences in the past Ed, but that's a really good description of libertarians. Kudos to you.

TIMOTHY OLEHOWSKI's picture

We may have had differences

We may have had differences in the past Ed, but that's a really good description of libertarians. Kudos to you.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

:)

It's what I believe.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Cool Ed , 15:00 hst ? 

Cool Ed , 15:00 hst ?  Monday 13.08.05
We remember Ralph Nader , Ross " I am all ears " Perot and Harry Browne , too :D
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Browne
/s , Steve , voting , non - felon Democrat •

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The ends

I read somewhere that the extreme right and the extreme left meet at the ends. That is where our government is at right now . It is a place called dysfunction. I have no use for either one. The extreme left is now attacking our government for spying in an age where data mining is being done by everybody under the sun and any semblance of privacy is an illusion. They are also forgetting that some people still want to blow us up. Who will these guys blame when the next atrocity happens. The government of course. We will hear again things like "Why didn't they warn us, or why didn't they see this coming?" The extreme right is bought and paid for by the war profiteering businesses and the energy companies and the insurance companies and Wall Street. They need to take over the government because it is their cash cow and they want to deregulate everything so that they can cheat whoever and however they want. All I want is to live in a country where the trains run on time and where our leaders love our country more than their own profits and for our leaders to want to do the most good for the most people. We will not have this if we live in a country of elites and serfs and we will not have this if we live in a country with no rules. What we need is moderation and tolerance of other people's views. Oprah says she never met a person she couldn't learn something from. That is a motto I adopted long ago and I think we would be living in a nicer world if more people did as well.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Mainers, 15:01 hst

Mainers, 15:01 hst Monday
Oprah also said , " You can have it all . You just can't have it all right now " :D
Oprah and Tiger are essentially the first black US based billionaires . Ever
† y v m , Claire
/s, Steve , Hawai'i

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Its more than that

these are the foot soldier's hired by the billionaires often represented by the Koch interests to destroy the government so they the billionaires can take over. They tried it before in the Businessmen's Coup of 1934 and failed. Gullible, uniformed, and ignorant they are unwilling to admit that they are pawns in a much large game. Should they get the government they want, the billionaires will take over and discard them like month old leftovers. You have to feel sorry for them, if it weren't for the fact that they will take us all down including our Constitution and history if they succeed.

Jim Cyr's picture

Monsieur Albrecht, your

hatred for "billionaires" needs to also include Buffet, Gates, Soros, Oprah, and the Hollywood crowd to make your hatred "Fair and Balanced". Segregating the Koch bros. shows the "spin" in you ideologue.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Jim ? Name a black republican

Jim ? Name a black republican . . A: _________________
/s Steve ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws

Steve  Dosh's picture

Tea party plans to abandon GOP stars

Mainers, 19:55 hst Sunday ?
What kind of tea are they drinking ? Alice B. Toklas tea ? " Toklas published her own literary memoir, a 1954 book that mixed reminiscences and recipes under the title The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The most famous recipe therein (actually contributed by her friend Brion Gysin) was called "Haschich Fudge," a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and "canibus sativa," [sic] or marijuana. Her name was later lent to the range of cannabis concoctions called Alice B. Toklas brownies. "
ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_B._Toklas
So be it . Rotƒlmfao again •
What next ? 'Shrooms ?
/s, Steve *<;Q~

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