The North Carolina Republican primaries were a big day for the Tea Party. The movement had not one, but two candidates campaigning to take on Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in November. Greg Brannon and Mark Harris had millions of dollars spent on their respective campaigns, yet it was obvious early on that this would be another case of the conservative vote being split. It’s become very typical in Republican primary politics.
Without a unified front, the establishment will always win. The time has come for conservatives to cut their losses and work on races where one candidate can overcome a weaker establishment choice.
In another North Carolina primary the Tea Party missed its chance. Frank Roche is an America-first, small-government candidate who challenged pro-amnesty, establishment Republican Renee Ellmers. Ellmers is a unique member of Congress for whom amnesty is not enough and those who don’t support “comprehensive immigration reform” are “ignorant.” Having more than a million dollars in resources, including more than $200,000 from Mark Zuckerberg, Ellmers won the primary with 58.8 percent of the vote.
The Tea Party groups did nothing to support Roche who raised just under $25,000. Even with such limited funds he did far better than anyone expected, winning over 40 percent of the vote without airing a single television ad. His loss was a larger defeat for the conservative movement than that of Brannon or Harris.
Media outlets from the Daily Beast to the Hill are reporting that Republicans have nothing to fear by supporting amnesty for illegal aliens. Why? Because Roche’s defeat proves the country is ready for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Had conservative PACs, Tea Party groups, or anyone else with money gotten involved and spent even a quarter of what was spent on Ellmers, there is a very good chance Roche would have won.
Instead the Tea Party missed out on that golden opportunity because they were investing millions of dollars challenging Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Boehner, and Pete Sessions, and getting involved in conservative civil wars in Georgia and North Carolina.
The only chance the Tea Party has at taking down an incumbent senator for this cycle is Chris McDaniel’s challenge to Thad Cochran. And that too may be an uphill climb, as Mississippi, while very conservative, also has establishment-oriented politics.
Trying to take on the Senate minority leader, who has the backing of fellow Kentuckians and Tea Party darlings Rand Paul and Thomas Massie, instead of challenging easily beatable establishment candidates such as Ellmers is a mistake.
Incumbent senators like McConnell have become the Tea Party’s Moby Dick, and the movement is losing legitimacy with every primary loss.
The Tea Party’s focus should have been defending good conservative incumbents, like Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Walter Jones; coalescing around one conservative in open seats, including T.W. Shannon for the Senate in Oklahoma; defeating weak incumbents who are attempting to give Democrats 12 million new voters such as Ellmers and Lindsey Graham; and lastly and most importantly, beating Democrats in November.
Big symbolic fish like McConnell and Boehner may be great for fundraising ploys and getting activists excited, but they’re not good for the movement when they result in defeats. If the Tea Party wants to prove that the rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated, they should be spending more time beating Mark Zuckerberg-approved Republicans and less in civil wars that they can’t win.