Tea Party upset victories launch spin cycle anew

12:53 PM, Sep 16, 2010   |    comments
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  • Delaware GOP senate primary winner Christine O'Donnell

MINNEAPOLIS -- National Democrats celebrated upset victories by Tea Party candidates in Republican senate primaries in Delaware and New York, but a Minnesota political analyst asserts the upstart movement will create a formidable challenge to Dems in November.

Conservative political consultant Christine O'Donnell, endorsed by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, shocked long time Republican Congressman Mike Castle in Delaware's senate primary Tuesday.   In New York's GOP senate primary Tea Party newcomer Carl Palladino defeated former Congressman Rick Lazio.

"We're seeing the Tea Party really mature now, from anger to social movement to political movement, to where it's really cementing itself in the Republican Party," Hamline University's David Schultz told KARE Wednesday.

Democrats portrayed the Tea Party's wins as a purging of moderates from the Republican Party, leaving a slate of ultra-conservative candidates that will drive away independent voters. That, in theory, would benefit Democrats.

But Schultz argues Democrats would dismiss the rise of the Tea Party Republicans at their own peril. Individual campaigns may well be tempted to paint Tea Party candidates as extremists, he said, but the new movement is flush with cash from corporate donors and prepared to saturate TV and radio with ads.

"Especially in a year of generally lower voter turnout, if an energized base of Tea Party people do turn out in very strong numbers they could still very well elect all of these candidates and take back the Senate for the Republicans."

Former President Bill Clinton, while in Minneapolis Tuesday night for a private fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, said Democrats should acknowledge the anger and unrest voters are feeling.   But, according to an Associated Press account of Clinton's speech, voters should be reminded "not to let that anger cloud your judgment."

Schultz told KARE that Clinton's advise to Democrats, to "join" that anger, will only work if they come through with a defined message of their own.

"What is the message Democrats want to send to voters in the closing seven weeks of the campaign? Simply saying that the Tea Party people are nuts isn't going to to it," Schultz remarked.

He said it typically hasn't worked for Democrats to abandon more progressive appeals and simply move to the right.   If they're going "join" the anger, Schultz said, the strategists will have to remind voters that many of the conditions they're unhappy with began before Barack Obama was elected.

(Copyright by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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