Will the Tea Party Take the Senate? 8 Races to Watch
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On a July conference call for FreedomWorks activists, Rand Paul said that, if elected, he planned to create a Tea Party caucus in the Senate. The next day, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., picked up that ball and ran with it, creating a Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives.
Once Paul creates his caucus, its membership won't be limited to the Tea Partiers who win their seats today. You can expect many existing members, including DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, for example, to join up, all for the purpose of sending a message to McConnell: "We will not be moved ... to pass anything."
Here are the Senate races Tea Partiers could win:
Nevada: Sharron Angle v. Harry Reid. When Sharron Angle first swiped the GOP nomination from Sue Lowden, the GOP establishment candidate, more than a few progressives gave a cheer -- Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos among them. Angle is so crazy, he told attendees of his Netroots Nation conference last July, that Harry Reid, the beleaguered Senate majority leader, will look great by comparison.
Today Reid is locked in a tossup contest with Angle, whom Silver favors to win; in fact, he gives her an 82-percent chance of winning. Angle supports the elimination of the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency. She opposes abortion in all circumstances. Before she launched a candidacy on the GOP line, she belonged to the Independent American Party, the Nevada affiliate of the Constitution Party, which seeks to replace the nation's secular law with Old Testament law, which calls for the execution of adulterers and people who have gay sex.
Not only is Angle poised to win a seat in the United States Senate today; if she does, she'll have defeated the Democrats' leader in that great, deliberative body.
Although DeMint did not endorse Angle until she won her primary, he jumped right on board once she did. In an audiotape of a phone conservation released by her rival, Jon Scott Ashjian, Angle boasted of her relationship with the South Carolina kingmaker: “I have juice with him … I go to Washington, D.C., and want to see Jim DeMint, he’s right there for me,” Angle said to Ashjian on the tape, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund has spent, as of its last filing, $263,000 in the Nevada Senate race. Rove's Crossroads GPS has spent, as of its last filing, $2.4 million in that race, and his American Crossroads spent $1.5 million. Americans for Prosperity, the Astroturf group founded by oil billionaire David Koch, spent $68,851, while Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition spread around $210,000. Tea Party Express kicked in $943,000.
Florida: Marco Rubio v. Charlie Crist v. Kendrick Meek. If there's any race that marks a great triumph for DeMint, it's this one. Rubio is the Tea Party's golden boy, a 39-year-old son of Cuban immigrants blessed with good looks, a great personal story and podium charisma. Rubio's primary challenge to Gov. Charlie Crist, who had won the early backing of McConnell's National Republican Senatorial Committee, pushed Crist out of the primary -- and the Republican Party -- when the polls began trending against him. Crist remains in the race as in independent, running against both Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, who is polling poorly while Rubio surges. Crist is hanging on, but not expected to win.
While the seat is not a pickup for the Republicans -- they already had this one, held by the retiring Mel Martinez -- Rubio's ability to snatch the nomination out from under a popular sitting governor signals a power shift in the Republican Party, one brought forth by DeMint and the astroturfing groups FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.