Since bursting on to the national political scene a few years ago, the Tea Party has achieved a great deal. In 2010, the Tea Party took the House of Representatives and dealt a serious blow to the huge Democratic majority in the Senate. This year, the Tea Party will try to finish the job and to take the Senate.
So far, Operation Hostile Takeover has been met with much success. Longtime moderate and deal maker Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) was crushed by Richard Mourdock in a May primary. Just a couple of months before the primary, media pundits were smirking at the idea of a Mourdock victory, dismissing it out-of-hand. They assured viewers that Senator Lugar was an institution in the Hoosier state. They were certain that the Tea Party had withered on the vine after 2010. They were wrong.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) nearly succumbed to tea partiers as well. Once considered as safe an incumbent as any in the Senate, Hatch was surprisingly forced into a primary by Tea Party challenger Dan Liljenquist. In the end, Hatch’s impressive fundraising, hard shift to the right following the 2010 Tea Party wave, refusal to debate his opponent, fiery campaigning, and political wiles helped him to stave off Liljenquist.
The fracturing of the national conservative movement over the race didn’t help either, but no political movement bats a thousand. Honestly, even forcing a primary in Utah’s unique electoral system and against an opponent of Hatch’s political caliber was impressive in and of itself.
Deb Fischer’s long-shot triumph over quintessential Republican establishment candidate Jon Bruning was more of a conservative than a Tea Party victory in the Nebraska Senate primary, since many in the Tea Party supported candidate Don Stenberg. However, without significant Tea Party support, it’s exceedingly unlikely that anyone could’ve beat Bruning.
In today’s Texas Senate primary runoff, there’s no such doubt about the Tea Party’s role. As one pollster acknowledged on Sunday, ascribing a Ted Cruz victory to the Tea Party would be “well justified.” After all, according to that poll, Cruz leads his establishment opponent David Dewhurst 75-22 amongst Tea Party supporters. It’s this massive margin that gives Cruz a whopping 10-point edge in the poll.
Is a Cruz victory today a sure thing? Not at all. Primaries are prone to surprises, and runoffs even more so. David Dewhurst has dramatically outspent his opponent, continues to maintain a slight edge in name recognition with Texans, and has the support of Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Republican establishment, and the political elite in Austin.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has the Tea Party, massive grassroots support, a principled constitutional conservative political philosophy, and tremendous eloquence to make the case for restoring limited, constitutional government. If recent polls are any indication, this will be enough.
As always, it will all come down to turnout, and if I have any Texas readers on here today, I would encourage you to vote for Cruz. While I personally wouldn’t call him a perfect candidate, he’s by all means a fantastic one, with all of the right principles and most of the right views on the issues. If I were a Texan, I would vote for him in a heartbeat.
Obviously, the media’s proclamations that the “Tea Party is dead” were more than a little bit premature. The Tea Party, while perhaps less visible than in 2010, is more effective than ever. Congressmen are voting with the knowledge that the advantages of incumbency mean less than ever. and that promises made to their constituents must be kept. Elections that would’ve once been a shoo-in for Republican establishment candidates are now no less than nail biters.
The Tea Party lives. And today, I believe it will continue its victory march.
Update: Ted Cruz indeed defeated his runoff opponent, David Dewhurst. All I can say is this: Grassroots matter, a lot. And the Tea Party isn’t just alive, it’s thriving. Congratulations to Ted Cruz, the next Senator from Texas.