A few weeks ago Tea Party Republicans took the country to the precipice of debt default and shut down the government to the costly tune of $24 billion in lost productivity. At that time we warned that if the Republican Party establishment continued to allow the radicals in their ranks to lead them down this destructive path, it would mark the end of the GOP’s influence on the national political stage. It appears that the Party leadership has gotten the message.
In what can only be billed as a very bad night for the Tea Party, moderate Republicans, conservative special interest groups and the voters finally said “enough is enough.”
In the highly publicized New Jersey Governor’s race, incumbent Republican Chris Christie won a decisive 22 point victory over his Democrat challenger Barbara Buono. Christie is a squishy moderate in the eyes of the Tea Party. But he has demonstrated that a Republican can win in a very blue state if he is willing to work with Democrats to forge compromise and get things done. Chris Christie is a big man with an even bigger personality. He can be abrupt and abrasive when challenged. People in this liberal state often find themselves at odds with his politics. But they appreciate the fact that he is willing to work toward finding common ground to get things done for the people. His much publicized embrace of the president during the Sandy tragedy is a case in point. His actions drew scorn from the Tea Party but endeared him to New Jersey citizens desperate to put politics aside in order to get the federal assistance they needed. Christie’s willingness to find common ground even when faced with withering criticism from the Tea Party will hold him in good stead as he runs for president in 2016…a candidacy he all but announced during last night’s victory speech.
In the Virginia governor’s race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated Tea Party Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Republicans had bowed to Tea Party pressure by agreeing to select their candidate by means of a state convention vote rather than the traditional open primary where the voters decide. The Tea Party wanted to make sure that their nominee in this key battle ground state was a “pure conservative” and they understood that state convention attendees tend to be the more ultra conservative of the party faithful. Cuccinelli was chosen and he did not disappoint; taking his anti- Obama, anti-birth control, pro-life, homophobic small government message across the state. McAuliffe was a flawed candidate who had never won a political campaign. His lone claim to fame was his personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton; something which only fanned the furor of the Tea party caucus. In the end the Republican establishment refused to back Cuccinelli’s radical agenda. They refused to open the party’s war chest. Cuccinelli received only 1/3 of the financial support that the party gave to current governor Bob McDonald four years ago. Republicans lost a governor’s race they could have won had that put forth a more reasonable, more electable candidate. For the first time in 75 years Virginians elected a candidate to the governors’ mansion that belonged to the same party as the sitting president.
But the race that is most disconcerting for the Tea Party is the Republican primary battle that occurred in the Alabama first district. Former state senator and Republican establishment candidate Bradley Byrne defeated Tea Party Republican candidate Dean Young in a runoff election. Byrne’s victory was fueled by contributions from the business community, Chamber of Commerce and even the NRA; all joining together to send a clear message to the Tea Party: “Enough is enough.” The Alabama 1st is a very, very red district in the very deep south. Republicans have held the district for almost 50 years. Byrne’s victory sends a clear message to the Tea Party…that the Republican Party is interested in winning and governing. Radical ideologs need not apply.
Smart Republicans are beginning to realize that the road to winning and governing does not run through the Tea Party caucus. Last nights’ results would indicate that there is a movement afoot on the part of the establishment Republicans to retake control of the Party from the Tea Party radicals.