May 4th, 2014
10:58 AM ET
6 months ago

The 'Inside Politics' Forecast: Will the Tea Party be 'humiliated' in the primaries?

CNN's John King and other top political reporters empty out their notebooks each Sunday on "Inside Politics" to reveal five things that will be in the headlines in the days, weeks and months ahead.

While much of political Washington was recovering from “prom night” – the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner – our ‘Inside Politics’ family was up early to get you ahead of the big political stories to come.


1. CAN THE ESTABLISHMENT “HUMILIATE” THE TEA PARTY IN THE PRIMARIES?

The Republican establishment is increasingly confident of a near total rout of the Tea Party in important primary contests. Some of the biggest come in the next several weeks, including the bids to unseat veteran GOP senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

But the establishment coalition watching this civil war is carefully using its Super PAC resources to swoop in and try to move races- either when trouble pops up or when it sees a chance to move the numbers in a way that significantly helps what it views as the mainstream candidates.

Last Sunday we gave you first word, for example, of a major Chamber of Commerce TV ad blitz in five Senate races.

And this week, convinced its strategy is working, I’m told to look for major Chamber spending in 10 House districts with GOP primary contests – from Massachusetts and New York to Illinois and California.

You might recall a while back when McConnell – the Senate GOP leader – raised eyebrows by telling Carl Hulse of The New York Times his goal was to “crush” the Tea Party challenges, including his own.

Now, establishment strategists, while still a bit nervous about a few races, are confidently using the term “humiliate” when asked about their goals for the contested primaries still to come.

2. NORTH CAROLINA IS A BIG GOP TEST

The North Carolina Senate race is one of the five where the Chamber of Commerce boosted its TV ad spending last week. Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, is the favored candidate of the establishment – and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times told us Sunday morning there is growing confidence this GOP family feud will come to an early end.

Tillis needs 40 percent of the primary vote to avoid a second round GOP runoff – something the establishment covets so it can save financial resources and turn attention to Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan.

Jeb’s endorsement this week was a boost to the campaign:

3. KAINE’S ENDORSEMENT STARTS THE HILLARY CLOCK

Politico’s Maggie Haberman took us inside the decision by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to endorse Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

It came this weekend in South Carolina – an important early presidential primary stop. Why does one senator’s endorsement matter? Well for starters Kaine is a close confidante of President Obama.

Maggie notes the high profile backing is seen within the party as officially starting the clock to when Secretary Clinton needs to make a public decision about running.

“It makes it all feel, as one Democrat put it, much more real in terms of –it’s very hard for her to step back and not run,” Haberman said.

It’s also more proof of the backlash certain to come if she decided not to enter the race; many in the party say she has been so high profile in recent months it has left no room for other 2016 prospects to do any serious organizing – and that she would damage the party’s hopes if she turned away now.

4. RAND PAUL: A UNITER NOT A DIVIDER

The relationship between Kentucky’s two Republican senators is among the most fascinating alliances in politics today.

Rand Paul was not Mitch McConnell’s choice when he ran in 2010, but Paul beat the establishment favorite in the GOP primary. It was viewed as a competitive race at the time, and Paul has always given McConnell credit for quickly putting the bitterness of the primary behind him and helping out in the general election. Now Paul is returning the favor: campaigning with McConnell as he seeks to defeat a Tea Party primary challenge.

McConnell is favored to beat Matt Bevin later this month, and Politico’s Maju Raju shared his reporting on just how Paul hopes to then spring into helping McConnell unify the state GOP for a tough fall campaign.

“This is going to be incredibly crucial for McConnell,” Raju said. “They believe in order to win this race, those Republican voters need to come back home - people who right now say they will not vote for Mitch McConnell because he is so unpopular.”

And this outreach also helps his own presidential aspirations.

It is the latest installment of a Paul coalition building effort worth watching as he tries to expand support beyond his Tea Party loyalists and his dad’s libertarian backers.

Just last week, for example, Paul ventured to Boston to meet with top Mitt Romney financial backers – the ultimate outreach to the establishment.

“They went in very skeptical and came out quite impressed,” a GOP source familiar with Team Romney’s take in that meeting tells CNN.

One of the public events on Rand’s schedule in Boston:

5. THE CHANGING FACE OF THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS

Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev is a rising force in the White House Correspondents Association, and as such was at the head table near President Obama for Saturday night’s dinner.

She took the opportunity the morning after to share how the organization had changed.

Eleven members, all white men, started the WHCA in 1914. Now the organization has grown to 237 members, a very diverse group, with about half men and half women on the board.

Margaret points out that while Obama was struck by how much the makeup of that dinner has changed in 100 years, the most interesting speech wasn’t last night, it was in 1941 when FDR used that venue to talk to the American people about World War II.

To read the FDR address, click here.

Enjoy your Sunday. See you soon.

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Suntzu

    Tea Party may not win the primaries however, we will not be humiliated, disappointed maybe but not humiliated. Contrary to what the democrats may tell you, if your not wasting our money on people who don't want to work hard and earn their own keep, we don't care what color your skin is.
    Most Tea Party members are proud successful type A driven people. Along with multiple degrees, careers and business to show for their accomplishments the Patriot's that I know usually have stable and happy family lives. Although CNN would have you believe otherwise, our goal is to try and return our country to the values of honesty and fortitude that our forefathers instilled.
    God Bless America!

    May 5, 2014 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  2. Serge Storms

    The Tea Party got drunk on a little bit of power, tried to rule from a minority, fell on their face, and is now in a struggle for power in their own party. This is only going to get funnier. SNL does a good job of imitating, but Palin, Rand and Cruz are the real thing.

    May 5, 2014 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
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