Some observers raise the question of whether the tea party crowd is cut out to achieve electoral success — or whether it is more influential as a more radical, guerrilla movement. “I think they are tremendously influential as a force in the November election,” said Curt Anderson, a veteran GOP strategist and a top adviser to the Republican National Committee. “Except if you see them as an organized political force — in which case, they have been less relevant.”
The early results from tea party candidates, despite their focus on hot-button issues such as opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill and concern about budget-busting policies of both parties, have not been pretty.
In Tuesday’s Texas GOP primary, tea party-inspired contenders found themselves blown out in races across the state. Gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who closely aligned herself with the grass-roots conservative movement, picked up just 19 percent of the vote. And while a host of House GOP incumbents faced challenges from tea party opponents, the only one who faced anything remotely close to a scare was Rep. Ralph Hall — who dispatched his nearest competitor by nearly 30 percentage points.
It wasn’t the first electoral blow for tea party faithful. In last month’s Illinois primary, tea party favorite Patrick Hughes won just 19 percent against GOP Rep. Mark Kirk in the Senate primary, while gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski, who aggressively sought the support of tea party activists and won high praise from conservative outlets like RedState.com, finished a distant fifth place in the Republican contest.
And in November,Doug Hoffman, whose Conservative Party campaign for an upstate New York House seat was the beneficiary of support from grass-roots activists across the country, fell short to Democrat Bill Owens.
The main reason seems to be a predictable growing pain of any new political movement. While tea party partisans have proved effective in organizing rallies and protests, they have yet to show they possess the bread-and-butter on-the-ground campaign skills it takes to win races, said Jerry Ray “Tea” Hall, who won less than 5 percent of the vote in his primary campaign against Ralph Hall in Texas.