Republican Party factional differences between Tea Party Republicans and non-Tea Party Republicans were released last week in a survey of thousands of activists whose identify have been fashioned since Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 in large part due to the energy, anger and political activism of people who show up at rallies wear sometimes wear tri-cornered hats with tea bags hanging from them to show they are patriots of the first degree.
Titled “Republican Factionalism and Tea Party Activists,” the survey of 12,000 supporters of the largest Tea Party membership group, FreedomWorks, demonstrates that Tea Party movement activists have a growing negativity towards the Republican Party.
At the mass level Tea Party supporters constitute a majority of Republican identifiers, particularly among those most active in Republican campaigns.
In Ohio, a state that’s leaned Republican since the early 1990s when George Voinovich was elected governor and Republicans captured control of the Ohio House that has held ever since except for a two-year period [2008-2010] Democrats controlled it, Tea Party activists are moving toward either a split from the GOP or exacting punish on Republican candidates who don’t measure up to their standards.
In an exclusive interview with CGE last week, an Ohio Tea Party strategist said that, in general, the survey’s conclusions are accurate. Chris Littleton of Ohio Rising, a new organization focused on building a better Ohio through freedom friendly policies, said more people identify with the Tea Party than with Republicans. He said there is no incentive to welcome Tea Party activists into their arms, which he says translates into a widening split going forward.
Fiscal conservatives like Littleton and Ted Stevenot, leader of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, an umbrella group to as many as 80 Tea Party groups in the Buckeye State, were angered yet again when Republican Gov. John Kasich decided to expand Medicaid health services to 275,000 Ohioans and expand the scope of businesses subject to a state sales tax and to increase severance taxes on shale oil and gas producers.
Further hardening the divisions between them was the election two weeks ago of Matt Borges as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Even though Borges, who was hand-picked by Gov. Kasich for the quarter-million dollar position despite a history splotched by a pay-to-play episode ten years ago in which he plead guilty to influence peddling on a grand scale, won 48 votes of the 66-Member Republican Party central committee but seven votes went to Tea Party candidate Tom Zawistowski, who based his Hail Mary campaign on criticisms that took Gov. Kasich and establishment Republicans to the woodshed for being on the wrong side of Medicaid, right to work, budget increases and hiking taxes, issues that increasingly mark the seemingly irreparable divisions between the camps.
With the 2014 midterm elections just 20 months away, and with Democrats promising to turnout voters at higher rates than ever before for elections that normally have fewer voters than in presidential election years, any cracks that could weaken the campaigns of Gov. Kasich and other Republicans who won their offices in 2010 through the help of energized Tea Party activists can only help the Democrats, who want to make next year look more like last year than four years ago when Republicans swept into all statewide offices.
Littleton opined that establishment Republicans think that if they do more big spending government that means they’re moderates. “They could not be more wrong,” he said, adding that the “economic stuff was what 2010 was about, less government and fiscal sanity.” To go in the opposite direction, he said, “that’s almost a suicide mission for them.” Republicans are choosing to abandon the wrong issues, he said, by identifying voters in the wrong way. “Fiscal responsibility, it’s like mom and apple, pie,” he said in a phone interview, noting that the growing acceptance of gay marriage and drug legalization trends toward Libertarian views.
Economic issues are most important to Tea Party, he said. “I don’t know how you win those people back,” he said of the Tea Party people who get that libertarian views on some social issues are becoming more commonplace. But as to the economic issues, he said, “They are crazy if they think the American people are moving in that direction.”
Tea Party Survey Highlights:
- Karl Rove, who once was a Tea Party supporter but who took aim at candidates supported by the Tea Party, said it’s not “sophisticated” like the Reagan movement.
- Republican Party is wrong to turn away from more ideological candidates toward more pragmatic ones.
- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Tax Day 2009: “What they want is a continuation of the failed economic policies of President George Bush which got us into the situation we are in now…This [Tea Party] initiative is funded by the high end—we call it AstroTurf, it’s not really a grassroots movement. It’s AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”.
- The Tea Party movement has proved remarkably resilient and remained a force in the Republican Party. Even though there has been a decline in Tea Party supporters (from 29% to 22% of the population since 2010), supporters of the movement still comprise between 45% and 55% of the Republican Party.
- Tea Party supporters are more active than non-Tea Party Republicans, they comprise a significant majority of the active Republican Party. Tea Party supporters made up 45 percent of all Republican respondents, but they made up 63 percent of Republicans who reported contacting an elected official to express an opinion, 65 percent of Republicans who reported giving money to a party or candidate, and 73 percent of Republicans who reported attending a political rally or meeting.
- According to the YouGov/Polimetrix survey, FreedomWorks is the largest Tea Party membership group.
- Tea Party is faulted with costing the Republicans six Senate seats over the past two election cycles.
- In 2012, the only Senate Republican winners were Jeff Flake, Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz—all of whom enjoyed significant tea party and conservative support. Meanwhile, more moderate candidates like Tommy Thompson, Heather Wilson, Rick Berg, and Denny Rehberg went down to defeat despite significant support from [Karl Rove’s organization] Crossroads” (For America 2013).
- In November 2010, the Republicans gained sixty-three seats in the U.S. House Representatives and six seats in the Senate as well as six new governorships and seven hundred more state legislative seats.
- Slightly more than one-in-five Republicans (counting Republican leaners) are strong Tea Party identifiers, more than 40% are “Supporters, but not so strong.” Only slightly more than a third of Republicans are either former Tea Party supporters or “never Tea Party supporters.” Almost two-thirds of all Republican respondents, then, call themselves “Tea Party supporters.”
- Tea Party supporters are responsible for almost all of the total campaign activity performed by party supporters on the Republican side.
- The Tea Party movement has emphasized that economic issues and not social issues most unify it.
- Key issues: reducing the deficit, shrinking the size of government and repealing “Obamacare.”
- Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder of Tea Party Patriots, said, “Issues like abortion and gay marriage have little to do with our three core principles, and therefore we leave these issues for other groups to advocate.”
- They are most conservative on economic issues—almost half (48.1%) place themselves in the most conservative category and 89.3% place themselves in either category 6 or 7 (out of 7). Even on social issues, though, 81.3% place themselves in the two most conservative categories—a percentage almost exactly the same as on the overall liberal-conservative scale.
- Non-Tea Party Republicans are actually closer to the mean position of Democrats than to that of Tea Party Republicans on imports.
- Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are among the most positively rated candidates among Tea Party Republicans, but they are the two most negatively rated among non-Tea Party Republicans.
- Romney and Santorum are the only candidates with positive ratings from both Tea Party Republicans and non-Tea Party Republicans. The only candidate with a net negative rating among Tea Party Republicans is Ron Paul.
- Abolishing the Department of Education, giving vouchers, and environmental regulation are important.
- Tea Party supporters are a majority of the Republican Party and especially of the most politically active identifiers within the party. There is a chasm between non-Tea Party Republicans and Tea Party Republicans on overall ideology, specific issue positions and issue priorities, or affect towards candidates
- Because of this large divide, it is not surprising that we saw Tea Party candidates challenging more traditional Republicans and winning primaries.
- The activist base that supplies much of the energy and manpower for parties and organizations, and the activist base of parties plays a crucial role in party change.
- The role of Tea Party activists in recruiting and promoting primary challenges to incumbents and establishment Republicans has been well documented.
- 11 big issues: oppose environmental regulations, oppose AffAct, limit immigration, reduce deficit and cut programs, oppose raising taxes, repeal “Obamacare,” limit imports, stay in Afghanistan, abolish DOE, ban abortions, give vouchers.
- Tea Party Republicans are less Republican and more conservative than other Republicans.
- A two-person race between Democrat and Republican leaves little choice for the Tea Party supporters who are negative towards the Republicans.
- The reliance on the Tea Party for campaign support and its attendant activity in elections makes it a difficult adversary for many of the groups within the Republican Party that would curtail its influence.
- Respondents are most unified on economic issues where two-thirds call themselves “Very Conservative” and 96% place themselves in one of the two most conservative categories. Even on social issues, more than three-quarters (78%) place themselves in the two most conservative categories, and only 10% call themselves middle of the road or liberal.
- Three highest priorities (shrinking government, repealing “Obamacare” and reducing the deficit.
- One of the major criticisms of traditional Republicans by Tea Party supporters is their willingness to compromise on important issues. Tea Party Express Amy Kremer said, “I hate the word compromise” when speaking about the fiscal cliff. The measure of purism used is: “When we feel strongly about political issues, we should not be willing to compromise with our political opponents.”
- The strongly conservative views of Tea Party respondents present a difficult problem for a more moderate Republican Party to win over its Tea Party supporters.
- The current attempt of the Republican Party to moderate, and even, in some cases, shed Tea Party supporters are problematic.
- The Tea Party supporters are not just a faction within the Republican Party: they are a majority faction within the party, particularly among active Republicans.
- A general lack of positive feeling towards the Republican Party. That more rate the Republican Party below average than above average is problematic for the party, and is reinforced by almost a quarter of the sample who choose “other” as their party and are particularly negative towards the Republican Party. This negativity is dwarfed by their antipathy towards the Democrats.
- In primary campaigns between establishment and Tea Party Republicans, there are no Democrats, and appeals to pragmatism appear likely to fail (particularly given the lack of willingness to compromise on issues about which they feel strongly).
- Only partisanship gives the Republican Party leverage over the Tea Party. How this will play out in the next two years is an open question, but it is likely that the Tea Party will continue to be a major, often dominant, force within the Republican Party.
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