Extremist Tea Party Views Could Hurt GOP With Swing Voters
Today’s Minnesota Public Radio-Humphrey Institute poll shows Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton running away from Tea Party-backed Republican Tom Emmer. Perhaps more telling, the poll reveals that Independence Party candidate Tom Horner (a former Republican) is gaining ground, and stealing crucial support from Emmer. Only a month ago, the MPR-Humphrey poll showed Dayton and Emmer tied with 34 percent each. But today’s tally gives Dayton an 11 percentage-point lead over Emmer — 38 to 27 percent. Horner has risen from 13 percent a month ago to 16 percent today.
The apparent rejection of Emmer by many Republican voters shows that what many political pundits have long suspected nationwide also holds true for Minnesota. The right-wing Tea Party, and its focus on eliminating government, and including Christian doctrine in Washington, is hurting the greater Republican Party’s chances of appealing to swing voters and winning back the Senate and the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections. Tea Party-backed Christine O’Donnell’s upset victory in Delaware’s Senate Republican primary election earlier this month punctuated this development.
The story of a growing rift within the Republican Party — between Tea Party extremists, and moderates who are driven more by fiscal policies than by bedroom politics — is playing out all over the country, and especially here in Minnesota, where Dayton, Emmer and Horner boast very different political visions.
Former Republican Governor Arne Carlson shook up the GOP establishment the day before O’Donnell’s victory in Delaware when he stood on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol and endorsed Horner — and not Emmer — to be Minnesota’s next governor. Carlson, who was considered a moderate and popular governor during his tenure in office from 1991-1999, feels that his moderate wing has been forced out of the Grand Old Party.
Carlson endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008 — an unpopular move with the state GOP, and suffered even more abuse from the Minnesota Republican Party last week for endorsing an Independent candidate. Emmer, himself, refused to comment on Carlson’s perceived snub of the party. Over in Michigan, former Governor Bill Milliken — himself a popular and moderate Republican during his time in office — also laments the direction in which his party has gone.
Political household names from Bill Clinton to Karl Rove have also weighed in on the growing rift within the Republican Party. Clinton said: “It used to be that Republicans were evidence-based, not dogma-based. They have thrown all that overboard. This is about dogma and big special interest under the guise of the Tea Party.” Rove told Fox News about O’Donnell’s victory: “I’m for the Republican, but I’ve got to tell you, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We’re now looking at seven to eight. In my opinion, this is not a race we’re going to be able to win.” (Days later Rove retracted his criticism, perhaps out of fear of criticizing the Tea Party base.)
What will happen to the Republican Party, going forward, if the Tea Party maintains its stranglehold? “Let’s say Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in Congress,” foreshadowed Arne Carlson. “All of a sudden they’re going to have to start talking about what they are for.”