November 8th, 2010
10:51 AM ET
12 years ago

Tea Party warning for Republicans up in 2012

Washington (CNN) - It's been less than a week since the 2010 midterm elections, but a Tea Party organization that targeted incumbent Republican senators in this year's GOP primaries already has a warning for 2012.

Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party group best know for its cross country bus tours and for pouring millions of dollars into the 2010 election, went after Republican Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, helping defeat both incumbents in this year's primaries. While Murkowski may survive, thanks to a general election bid as a write-in candidate, the group says the warning is on the wall for Republican lawmakers who have in the past been willing to compromise with Democrats and who may not be fiscally conservative enough for Tea Party activists.

"Hopefully the 2010 election results will cause more senators to see the light about excessive growth of government and deficit spending. So we will give them a chance to improve before we make them feel the heat in their re-election campaigns," said Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell Friday. "After the results this week, my guess is many senators will suddenly be more willing to adhere to conservative ideals."

Among those Republican senators up for re-election who could come under attack by the Tea Party movement: Orrin Hatch of Utah, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who received assistance from Tea Party activists in his election victory at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday Red State's Erick Erickson, a CNN contributor, added Brown to his list of "Potential Tea Party Targets for 2012." Tea Party supporters have issues with some of Brown's votes since he was sworn in.

But an influential conservative senator who bucked his party leadership when it came to primary battles for open Senate seats this year says he won't be targeting fellow Republicans in the chamber in 2012.

"I have no intentions, at this point, of supporting primary challengers to any of my colleagues," Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told CNN's John King on Wednesday. "I think you may see primary challenges if our colleagues don't do what we've promised as Republicans. And that's to support constitutional limited government. I didn't recruit any primary challengers this time, and - but the people, I believe, will help us make those decisions."

Only ten Republican Senators are up for re-election in 2012, and only two seem at this early stage to face serious challenges from the Democrats. Brown, who pulled of an upset earlier this in year in the battle to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, will be in the Democrats' bulls-eye in the next election. And while Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana survived a personal sex scandal in this year's election, there's no guarantee Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, also tainted by a sex scandal, will be as successful when he's up for re-election in 2012

Of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs in the next election, 23 belong to Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them.

It's doubtful that the political climate will be as friendly in 2012 to Democrats as it was in 2006, when the party won back control of both the House and the Senate. Among those Democratic senators who could face challenging re-elections: Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jim Webb of Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Sen.-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: 2010 • 2012 • Tea Party Express • Tea Party movement
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. PalmReader

    CNN thank you for catapulting this circus side-show of freakazoids, and illiterate non-entities, into thinking they now hold a political stronghold on our country. Your constant coverage of their every move, and utterance has placed them front and center in the political arena.
    CNN lost 40% of their viewers this past year in it's determination to make the TeaParty revelent. Go figure.

    November 8, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Limbaugh is a liberal

    I hope these Tea Partiers will also keep their own in line. Why? How long do you think it will be before the Tea Party congressmen will bend over backward and become yes-men to the failed republican leadership that caused all the problems in the first place? One week? A day? My bet is that they already have been yes-men, but used the naive Tea Party label to get into office, never actually believing any of that 'fiscal conservative' hype.

    November 8, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Clark Wilhelm Griswald

    Anyone with any knowledge of third parties will know that this election was the Tea Party's high water mark, and that they will implode in 2012, quite possibly doing a Nader and getting Obama re-elected.

    November 8, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Willa-PA

    I meant 2012

    November 8, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
1 2