MADISON, Wis.—The tea party, at least its widespread influence on Republican congressional candidates, "is over," declared the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party group charged with electing Democrats to the House.
"House Republican incumbents—and their candidates—are running as far away from the Tea Party as they can," a pre-election DCCC memo provided to Yahoo News reads. "Regardless of whether [Republicans] win or lose, the Tea Party of 2010 is over. They've been forced on defense in the message fight all cycle long, and now those who win will have done so by giving up on the Tea Party."
The memo argues that Republican lawmakers who arose from the tea party are now promoting bipartisanship and willingness to compromise in their re-election bids instead of embracing the hard-line messages that propelled their campaigns two years ago.
It is possible, of course, that this Democratic declaration is premature. Tea party-backed candidates dominated Republican primary contests across the country in 2012, launching what could be a new class of future Republican leaders. In Texas, Ted Cruz defeated the establishment candidate backed by Gov. Rick Perry, and in Indiana, Richard Mourdock forced longtime Republican Sen. Richard Lugar into early retirement. Looking to 2013, tea party groups who are begrudgingly backing Mitt Romney have vowed to press him, should he become president, toward conservative positions.
The tea party, a grass-roots network of conservative activists, drove many Republican House and Senate candidates to victory in the midterm elections two years ago, but its influence seems to be overshadowed in 2012 by the presidential election. Still, the infrastructure that was built since the movement launched in 2009 has been used to promote Republican congressional candidates and serve as a backup ground game for Romney's presidential campaign.
Regardless of the health of the tea party's influence this election cycle, Republicans are widely expected to retain control of the House.
Read the full DCCC memo here:
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: DCCC Communications
DATE: Monday, November 5
RE: The Tea Party Is Over
The 2012 elections have been the undoing of the 2010 Tea Party tsunami that crashed upon Washington. The Tea Party is over.
In 2010, these Tea Party Republicans ran on a common agenda: blocking President Obama, repealing health care reform, opposing government regulation, favoring massive cuts in government spending and refusing to compromise. They arrived to much fanfare as they took control of the House.
Now, a merely 24 months later, the Tea Party agenda of this Republican Congress is toxic. The approval ratings for this Congress—and for the Tea Party—have plummeted. House Republican incumbents—and their candidates—are running as far away from the Tea Party as they can.
These same 2010 Tea Partiers are running in 2012 claiming to be committed to bipartisanship and compromise, partners with President Obama, willing to regulate companies that outsource, and committed to spending more on entitlements and education.
The election has entirely been a battle defined by Democrats, as we've been on offense all cycle.
Regardless of whether they win or lose, the Tea Party of 2010 is over. They've been forced on defense in the message fight all cycle long, and now those who win will have done so by giving up on the Tea Party.
Here are just a few examples of the national trend:
- "Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) describes herself as a bipartisan "independent voice" in a pitch to voters in a campaign ad. The characterization comes despite the fact that the Minnesota congresswoman has defined her political career with staunchly conservative positions and has a penchant for using inflammatory rhetoric to attack President Barack Obama's policies." According to the Associated Press, Bachmann has even started touting her work with President Obama and House Minoirty Leader Nancy Pelosi. [Huffington Post, 10/12/12; AP, 10/18/12]
- Two years ago, Congresswoman Nan Hayworth was swept into office with the support of the Tea Party movement by attacking "King Barack and his out-of-control Congress." Now Hayworth is attempting to portray herself as a moderate. [Bloomberg News, 10/4/12]
- Two years ago, radical anti-choice advocate Ann Marie Buerkle was elected by the Tea Party with the support of Sarah Palin. Today, Congresswoman Buerkle is trying to position herself as a moderate, even airing a television advertisement claiming she "worked" with President Obama by holding a largely ceremonial role as U.S. representatives to the United Nations General Assembly. [Post-Standard, 1/23/11; Wall Street Journal, 7/27/12; NY Daily News, 7/12/10; YouTube, 10/11/12; Politico, 9/16/11]
- Tea Party favorite Allen West, who once compared Social Security to slavery and called for the elimination of the Department of Education is now trying to dull his image as a "polarizing" conservative bomb-thrower by claiming he "will protect Medicare and Social Security for both today's and tomorrow's seniors" and airing advertisements highlighting his commitment to public education—claiming he "won't stand by why our schools fail our children." [Sun-Sentinel, 7/09/02; 3/29/12; Miami Herald, 7/16/10; Palm Beach Post Editorial, 7/29/12; TC Palm Editorial, 7/22/12; West's Campaign Website, accessed 11/4/12; YouTube, 7/18/12]
- The headline of the Daily Herald reports that Tea Party devotee Joe Walsh pledged bipartisan compromise if elected for a second term. [Daily Herald, 9/29/12]
- "Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling may have hitched his wagon to the Tea Party to help power his insurgent Republican campaign for the House in 2010, but as his first re-election bid comes to a close, he's taking a decidedly different tack, courting Democrats and touting his independent streak." [BuzzFeed, 11/1/12]
Those are just a few examples. In nearly every competitive race, these Tea Party favorites have given up on the Tea Party.
The distance Republican incumbents and candidates have put between themselves and the agenda of this 2010-elected Tea Party Congress shows voters have sent an unmistakable message and the 2010 Tea party is officially over.