You’ve got to feel for the Tea Party Alliance at this point. This organization formed as an umbrella to assist Jamie Radtke in her US Senate campaign, to get the various Tea Party groups together and unite behind one candidate and one message. Given the success of Tea Party organizations in Delaware (Mike Castle), Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey), Utah (Mike Lee), and Florida (Marco Rubio) the Virginia Tea Party leadership felt this was their time.
Boy were they off the mark.
Beginning with a slew of defeats in 2010 primaries, compounded by numerous organizations distancing themselves from the umbrella group, not wanting to work with individuals who either 1) didn’t know what they were doing or 2) were so inefficient there’s nothing gained by working with them, the Virginia Tea Party Alliance was soundly trumped in the spring of 2010. The reaction at the time, from some leaders, was to blame the candidates for running and not kowtowing to the wishes of the Tea Party leadership. That message didn’t go over so well and leadership was forced to apologize.
Despite those setbacks, Jamie Radtke went ahead with her plans to run for US Senate, with the Tea Party umbrella behind her. With the precedents of our nearby states on the East Coast, a run against a ‘career politician’ was a shoe-in. Whoops. Currently Radtke is 60 points down to George Allen, and Radtke has alienated Tea Party organizations by going back on her word to attend events.
The Tea Party Alliance in the run-up to the 2011 State Senate elections declared they were going ‘RINO’ hunting in seven races, where Senators didn’t vote in the past in conjunctions with their wishes. Walter Stosch and Tommy Norment specifically were supposed to be targeted and be overthrown in a ‘true conservative’ fashion. Whoops again. Norment easily handled his challenger, the RINO hunt never panned out and was dropped completely.
Republicans last night recaptured power in the Senate, albeit by the skin of their teeth. With the advantage of gerrymandering their districts, Democrats were able to salvage a tie in the State Senate, despite being outvoted statewide 61% to 39%. Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli personally visited 15 GOTV rallies in the last weekend, together campaigning and encouraging candidates across the state.
Today, the Tea Party Alliance responded. (Given their track record, you can already see how this is going to go)(We won’t mind if you don’t read it all, we barely did)
Last night showed that the Republican Party still has not learned the lessons about how to fight entrenched Democrats, and nor learned how to use effectively multiple channels and coalitions to communicate its message.
This was an election where a Presidential campaign bus tour was unwelcomed by every Democrat in a competitive race. Tea Party pressure caused a number of incumbent Democratic State Senators to publicly throw Obama under the bus. The Republican Party of Virginia failed to seize a critical opportunity to translate President Obama’s unpopularity into a large gain of State Senate seats.
Polling sponsored by the Virginia Tea Party Alliance (VATPA) showed a clear path to victory- nationalize each state senate race and link the Democratic Party candidate to President Obama and his agenda. The counter to Obama was not the Governor McDonnell, but to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who energizes conservative voters more that the Governor. Governor McDonnell is a popular governor, but voters could not identify specifics about his agenda, and therefore was not a he was not a factor in mobilizing people to vote.
The VATPA polling also showed that overall, Virginians are satisfied with their state government, but highly dissatisfied with national policies and very dissatisfied with President Obama. Voters did not see the Governor’s agenda as being “blocked”. Several Democratic Party candidates’ effectively demonstrated cooperation with some key initiatives of the Governor like his transportation bill. The voting results reinforced the tea party poll – most voters saw no reason to change the status quo.
Overkill money alone doesn’t work. The Republican Party of Virginia spend a great deal of money on the wrong message and a weak message, they also wasted literally millions of dollars on TV ads and expensive mailings in July, August, September and even in early October. These ads focused on the personality of the candidate, not on the issues or ideas that motivate voters. This money could have been better spent much more effectively building grassroots support early, with a solid message and vision. In short, the Republican Party of Virginia failed to create a compelling reason for voters to switch from the “devil they know” to the “devil they don’t know”.
Virginia’s conservative voters had a chance to vote against the President and his policies in 2011 by ousting Virginia Senate Democrats. There was an opportunity to show that the Republican gains in 2009 and 2010 could be expanded, and that Virginia was now solidly conservative, no longer a battleground state. The Republican Party needs to work on its message. It needs to be willing to be bold, and stop playing it “safe”. It must abandon the “personality politics” of the 1990’s and embrace the issue and vision campaigns that win. That’s the best get out the vote plan we can have.
First, I’m curious how the Tea Party Alliance is lecturing anyone on ‘how to win’…what races have they won again?
To sum up the stupidity above:
Before the election:
the Tea Party Alliance was recommending a political strategy of distance yourself from Governor McDonnell (who’s approval rating is 67+%), embrace Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (who appeared alongside Bob McDonnell across the state), ignore the fact that redistricting ever happened (the Tea Party in Virginia has never been politically astute), and ignore that Dems drew their own seats.
After the election:
After capturing power in the State Senate, the Tea Party Alliance blames Republicans for not being conservative enough, not running issues based campaigns, for embracing Bob McDonnell, not embracing Ken Cuccinelli enough, spending too much money, not having a ground game, RPV for not having a solid message and openly blamed/ridiculed the voters of Virginia for not getting the message and voting conservative (voters always love being told they’re dumb) and ignore that Virginia just voted Republican 61%.
An organization that can’t even field candidates against candidates they don’t agree with (Stosch specifically) has neither the standing nor the credibility to be attacking the Republican Party of Virginia (not that they would even if they had, given their track record over the past year and a half). I didn’t see the Tea Party spending money on issue based ads, which they’re welcome to do in Virginia. When the Tea Party did get involved, it backfired completely, particularly in Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Eastern Shore, where Ben Loyola’s affiliation with the Tea Party and their material helped Northam overcome the current political climate (number people on the ground have talked about the voter backlash from the HRTP’s tactics and illegal lit drops in the district).
We made the mistake of assuming we’d coast to victory last night, using 2009 turnout numbers as a barometer. Despite this, we still effectively captured a majority and the first thing the Tea Party Alliance does is point fingers?
This is exactly why they have no credibility and no standing in political circles in the state. They can’t agree on a strategy, a candidate or even an issue, let alone an entire election message. Hindsight is always 20/20, but in this case not only are they wrong, they’re not even remotely close to right. Their press release shows their disconnect from Virginia politics, which is precisely the reason they haven’t been able to get someone elected to statewide or national office yet. The local Tea Party groups on the ground in most parts of the state are vastly more effective, more in tune with the needs and wishes of voters and candidates alike I’ve already spoken to conservative organizations and leaders today who are openly and outright distancing themselves from the Tea Party Alliance, while committing to further work with individual local groups.
The umbrella experiment has failed. Virginia is not Delaware, it’s not Pennsylvania, it’s not Utah and it’s not Florida. It is a political beast like no other and the Tea Party Alliance is clearly out of its depth, off-message and out of touch with Virginia voters. Dissolve this sham of an organization and get back to where you’re most effective: working together with candidates, holding elected officials accountable at the LOCAL level, not dictating false Monday morning quarterbacking from above.
Of course this will go unheeded, because the only thing larger than the Tea Party Alliance’s ineffectiveness is their collective egos. Given their track record in Virginia, let’s guess how 2012 is going to go for the Tea Party Alliance, shall we?