July 8th, 2010
08:42 AM ET
4 years ago

Positions meet practicality for Tea Party candidates

(CNN) - The handful of Tea Party-backed candidates who've had successful primary wins now face an ideological dilemma - and potential backlash - as they retool for a general election campaign.

Do they stick to their far-right agenda and trust that their conservative credentials will carry them to victory in November, or do they move ahead with a more mainstream, politically expedient message?

"The old, cynical conventional wisdom in politics is that in the Republican Party, you run to the right to win the nomination and then you run to the center to win the general election, and the opposite is true for the Democratic Party," said John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."

"What's going to be challenging is that the Tea Partiers ran as ideological warriors attacking the establishment with a refusal to compromise on their principle. ... That makes any pragmatic move to the center a lot more complicated for them to do with any credibility," he said.

Candidates supported by the Tea Party, which is a conservative movement and not a political party, have come under fire from supporters and opponents for moves viewed as plays to the center.

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Filed under: 2010 • Tea Party movement
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. gary

    The most important tea party position is to radically cut spending, hold taxes at their current level and grow out of this national debt. Bush was a reckless spender but Obama has been even more of a disaster. These politicians just don't get it.

    July 8, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  2. educated american (legal)

    what is so radical about following the constitution?

    what is so radical about holding elected officials to their oath of office?

    what the hell is so radical about making others take responibility for thier own actions, so those of us who do pay taxes- don't have to support bad behaivor and mal-investments?

    July 8, 2010 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  3. Eric

    "Running toward the center."

    Translation: become a liberal-lite RINO.

    I'm sorry, if I wanted to vote for a big spending liberal, I'd vote for one.

    I want TRUE conservatives in office (George Du[m]bya was a wolf in sheeps clothing), not RINOs who are embarrassed to be conservative, so they become John McCain just to get invited to better cocktail parties.

    Well, the party ends this year, folks.

    If you want my vote, you'll pledge to dismantle the unconstitutional federal beast that progressives have assembled these past 100 years.

    And, I'd even be willing to vote for a Democrat if they actually held the same belief.

    "When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
    - Benjamin Franklin

    July 8, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  4. hobart

    There's nothing wrong with playing to the center per se. What's wrong is when it's a lie. When a party has thrown all its moderates under the bus, it is sheer hypocrisy and an outright lie to hide their agenda and use this dishonesty merely to dupe the American people into electing them.

    It's pretty clear that the Party of Lincoln has NOTHING in common with Lincoln, from their overt racism to their threats to secede from the union if they don't get their way.

    Why do Republicans so hate America?

    July 8, 2010 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  5. Terry

    Tea Party Smee Party. Those in the know are laughing all the way to the bank. PT Barnum sure called this one.

    July 8, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  6. Hugo

    This is the kind of crap that the "special interest owned" media propaganda machine perpetuates in an attempt to destroy a third party candidate. The Tea Party has nothing to do with the far right fringe, it has everything to do with the Bill of Rights, Constitution and belief in a limited Federal Government as prescribed by the Constitution, it is called States Rights. This is the same old liberal smear tactic that we have witnessed over and over and over, demonize attack and discredit, like a Palin. Well guess what, it wont work this time, people are figuring out that what we have in DC is a bunch of self serving lifer bureaucrats that take care of their special interests and themselves and NOT the constituents they represent. Independents are TEA PARTY whether they even know it or not, and come November the Incumbents are going to find out. The CENTER of America is sick of the Freaks running the Freak show and is going to initiate the change of venue, no matter how they try to spin it.

    July 8, 2010 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  7. GI Joe

    Wonder which one of those wingnuts will insist on nuking Iran? That should be a really cheap war and not cause any body bags at all.

    July 8, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I say let them run on their principals. That way the Republican party will go the way of their Whig and Know-Nothing predecessors. The Republican party was born from the ashes of the Whigs due to their refusal to take a definite stand against the State's Rights (read pro-slavery) stance of the Democratic party. The original basis for the Republicans was for a strong central government with only limited powers to the states. Due to their electoral successes, they were courted by the major industries of the day to set standard federal policy as opposed to the 30-some-odd policies of the individual states. This began the courtship between the Republicans and Big Business that Teddy Roosevelt tried to break.
    The Republicans were also at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. LBJ knew he did not have the Democratic Party votes due to the southern segregationists to pass the legislation he needed, so he got the Republicans on board. Then the Republicans turned to the Southern Democrats and said "look what your President has done! We would never force you states to do this stuff!" Thus, the Southern Democrat Segregationists became the obstructionist Republicans betraying the party's original purpose.

    July 8, 2010 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  9. James

    The conventional wisdom is that many of the tea party backed candidates will have to own up to their statements they have made and actions they exhibited in the primary or in the past. One thing they will find out is that in Congress you need to work across the aisle to get the something done. Having gridlock will only make things worse and be tagged a do nothing Congress.

    There are many but one person who exhibited such qualities: Sharon Angle. Even she is trying to move away from her stance but that is not working.

    July 8, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. ysidero

    Reality bites – Tea Party ideology will turn off most voters once it is exposed for the right wing extremism it really is.

    July 8, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  11. witch56

    Lets be realistic, they are fish out of water in the REAL world. They are out of touch. They want to take a very large step back and we have come to far to return back to a "simpler time."

    July 8, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  12. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    America is not any more ready now, as a whole, to embrace the Tea Party than we were to embrace Nazism, Communism or McCarthyism in the past.

    Do they stick to their far-right agenda?"
    Democrats have shown ourselves to be pretty inept, but really, any democrat who does not glue, staple, nail, weld, FUSE their opponent to their "Tea Party Movement" roots DESERVES TO LOSE.
    The Tea Party Movement is a small minority in the Republican party... Feared by SMART Republicans as spoilers for any race. Democrats will be coming out in droves to vote, fearful that one of those "tin foil hat wearing Ultra Right Wing Crazies" might get into office.

    July 8, 2010 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There is so much of a difference when running for a primary and running for a general election. If people get elected based on the fringe, then they will never get elected again. They have to learn how to compromise and bargain. We can't be ideologues like Sarah Palin. We need to learn what we can live with and what needs to be get done.

    July 8, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. roro

    Sure, they won the primaries with their ridiculous ideologies, but now they know that to win the elections, they must step back on their insane statements. Sharon Angle is the poster girl for this. It just shows what politicians they really are, and not the grass roots candidates they have pretended to be. They know they can't win a real election with their crazy ideas, so they have to modify and flip flop on what they already said. I can only hope that the people of this country can see through all the smoke and mirrors.

    July 8, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  15. Michael

    Yes indeed, there is the problem: a mob with pitchforks is great for making noise; they can even be a bit scary; but most Americans really don't want them running the country. We had enough of that way back in Salem in 1692.

    July 8, 2010 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. KM

    In my opinion, most Tea Party candidates will lose in a general election. You need votes from the independents as well as your base to win.

    So much for the assumption that the republicans will win hands down this November.

    July 8, 2010 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. Cody

    With the Tea Party crowd, the conventional wisdom is to run around in circles spouting simplistic rhetoric and then run off the cliff with the rest of their lemming friends.

    July 8, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. LOVESIRONY

    come on moderates and independents do not be fooled by these attempts to appear mainstream. Can you trust someone that refuses to talk to the mainstream media?

    July 8, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    The tea party is exciting, but I fear it has no controls. The tea party is too much to the extreme right for me. These conservative extremists want to maintain same failed policies I no longer support, the continued failed drug policy that wastes billions of tax dollars a year, not to mention the lives of law enforcement and innocent bystanders, the Tea Party stance against the right to choose, their stance against gays like they do not even have a right to exist. They want to continue to be the world's policeman costing billions.
    To me the tea parties are all for the constitution when it works in their favor, much the same for the extreme liberals as well. But do not want to hear all that talk about personnel Liberty and Freedom.

    July 8, 2010 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  20. Randall in Torrance, CA - The Tea Party Movement is based on ADD, kooks, and an addiction to being a certified moron

    The Tae Party wants to carry guns and overthrow the government and attack the White House. These idiots need to be waterboarded with BP oil and then sent to a deserted island where they cannot infect humanity with their diseased brains.

    July 8, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  21. Fred Riek

    The Tea Party is mainly a bunch of loud mouths who are angy over the election of Obama and the many failings of the Bush administration. Their far from the mainstream ideas and approach to politics will surely bite them in their butts come election time. At least this is my wish rather than find out that there are that many voters ignorant enough to vote in these far-right loonies.

    July 8, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  22. Big Al

    All politicians run on meaningless platitudes to one degree or another. The Tea Partiers are at this point responding to meaningless platitudes. Things like less government and less government spending will mean lower taxes for all. Who could disagree with that? But do all Tea Partiers agree which parts of government we can do without? Do all Tea Partiers agree which government spending needs to be cut? I think not. When their candidates have to get down to specifics things will star to unravel.

    July 8, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  23. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Look at what the Tea Party has done to Colorado Springs.

    July 8, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. Sarah, the baby seal basher

    Just show us your Tea party card comrade and prove you have passed our litmus test.Its a shame that scumbag, Dick Armey,hijacked those people,I at least had some respect for them until he took them over,even if I didnt agree with alot of their issues.

    July 8, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  25. Jeff in Virginia

    There's your Tea Party principles at work- Tell your supporters one thing, and do another.

    July 8, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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