These days, it seems like everyone's getting a tea party challenger. Like in 2010, when insurgent tea party candidates struck fear into the hearts of Democrats and Republicans alike, 2014 is shaping up to be another marquee year. Still, incumbents have one advantage in 2014: advance notice. Tea party groups have publicized their desire to find primary challengers for Republicans they don't like as well as vulnerable Democrats who are already in office. Here are a few tell-tale signs that a tea party challenger might jump into a race near you. media: 19907548
Support Immigration Reform
Republicans in the Senate who are on board with immigration reform are near the top of the target list for tea party groups. Earlier this summer the Tea Party Patriots, the largest tea party organization in the country, sent out a warning to anyone who dared to support the Senate's immigration bill, which they have dubbed "amnesty." Now, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the bipartisan Gang of 8, which helped craft the bill, is facing a slew of challengers, all of whom are likely to carry the tea party mantle.
Oppose Defunding 'Obamacare'
You'd be hard pressed to find a Republican in Congress who isn't opposed to President Obama's health care law -- or any of President Obama's policies, for that matter. But the issue of tying a proposal to defund Obamacare to a bill that would fund the entire federal government has torn Republicans in Congress apart. Tea party groups are so angry with those who they believe are abandoning their principals by opposing the strategy that they're challenging some of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate. And tea party groups in Texas, angry with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, for opposing the defunding strategy, are trying to enlist Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, to mount a challenge. So far, Gohmert has said he won't challenge Cornyn, who is the Senate minority whip, but that won't stop the tea party from trying.
Spend a Lot of Time in Washington
Spending a long time in Washington is a not a good thing if you're a Republican; it's really, really not a good thing. It's the principal argument Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Republican opponent, Matt Bevin, is using against him. McConnell, R-Ky., has spent 28 years in the Senate. And it also explains, at least in part, why Liz Cheney is challenging a fellow Republican, Sen. Mike Enzi, in Wyoming. "I'm running because I believe it is necessary for a new generation of leaders to step up to the plate," said Cheney, in a thinly veiled reference to Enzi, 69, and his 15-year tenure in the Senate.
When it comes to compromising on "conservative principals," the tea party wants nothing of it. "Instead of cutting deals with the president's liberal allies, we should be opposing them every step of the way," declared Liz Cheney as she announced she would challenge Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. In return, Enzi has abandoned the phrase compromise in favor or "common ground." "I try to get people together to find out what the common ground is," Enzi told Jackson Hole News and Guide. "There's a lot of common ground out there. I do work across the aisle. If you want to pass a bill and you're in the minority, and you don't work across the aisle, you're not going to pass anything."
Be a Democrat in a Red State
The No. 1 priority for Republicans in 2014 is kicking out Democrats who are in office in traditionally Republican States. In Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich is the last remaining Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, tea party favorite Joe Miller will run to challenge him after losing to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010. Rep. Tom Cotton will challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in the red state of Arkansas in 2014. Cotton, who has only been in Congress for seven months, is well loved by the tea party and has voted in line with their views -- against a student loan reform bill and against a farm bill that is deeply popular in his home state. And Ken Buck, another tea party candidate who narrowly lost in 2010, will try again to unseat freshman Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado.