Analysis: Tea Party aims at Democrats, Republicans alike

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – An anticipated influx of anti-establishment Tea Party lawmakers in Congress after the November 2 election gives their fellow U.S. Republicans as well as Democrats reason to fear.

The conservative rebels are fired up to help Republicans slam the brakes on President Barack Obama’s largely liberal and costly agenda after the midterm vote.

But they are also ready to challenge Republican leadership if they sense that they aren’t moving fast enough to shrink government, cut taxes and trim record U.S. deficits.

“We are going to closely watch to see if Republicans do what they say they’re going to do,” said Chris Littleton, head of Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of 58 Tea Party groups.

Expect high-stakes showdowns over Tea Party demands to slash spending, which could trigger threatened government shutdowns and voter backlash.

Dan Ripp of Bradley Woods, a private firm that tracks Washington for institutional investors, said, “If I were the Republican Party strategist, I’d want to make certain that the Tea Party doesn’t pull us too far to the right.”

“Democrats are going to pay a price this year because Obama pulled them too far to the left,” Ripp said. “Republicans have to be careful” with their new power. “They don’t want to blow it,” he said.

The Tea Party movement — a loose coalition of groups nationwide angry about big government — has rocked U.S. politics this year, helping drum up unprecedented disapproval of Congress. While Tea Partiers tout their beliefs as fiscal conservatives, many are also social conservatives.

Along the way, Tea Partiers have energized the Republican Party, positioning it to win the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate from Obama’s Democrats next month.

But they have also ousted a number of Republican establishment candidates by complaining they weren’t conservative enough and creating internal rifts.

CHALLENGE TO REPUBLICANS

In fact, Tea Party-backed Senate Republican challengers prevailed in primary elections in eight states, often over hand-picked Republican Party contenders.

These victors include Sharron Angle, in a close Nevada race to unseat Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, and Joe Miller, who with the help of Tea Party darling Sarah Palin upset Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary in Alaska.

Anne Sorock of the Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative group that has studied the Tea Party, said, “The Tea Party is chomping at the bit to show that the election isn’t the be-all and end-all of their cause. They want to change the direction of our country.”

Many Republicans worry that the Tea Party will be tough to deal with, particularly in the Senate, long referred to as “the world’s most deliberative body.”

“‘Mad as hell’ is a powerful and genuine pre-election force … (but) it doesn’t work so well as a philosophy for governing,” said former Senate Republican aide John Ullyot.

Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor who tracks congressional races, predicts House Republicans will pick up more than 50 seats. That would give Republicans a majority of around 240 or so, about a fifth of them packing “strong Tea Party backing,” Sabato said.

“A giant worry is that the Tea Party makes the Republican caucus in the House and Senate unwilling to compromise,” Sabato said. “I’m not sure they will be able to agree on the wording of a Mother’s Day resolution.”

Conservative Representative Mike Pence, a member of Republican leadership, rejects such talk and said he looks forward to welcoming Tea Partiers to Capitol Hill.

“I see it as nothing but positive,” said Pence. “It’s going to create an environment where — if we are given the opportunity to lead the Congress — we are going to have the ability to make the hard choices — to restore fiscal discipline, to pursue policies that will grow our economy.”

Republican Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 White House race to Obama, said lawmakers in both parties need to heed the Tea Party’s concerns.

If they do not, McCain said, a new political movement could emerge, citing 1992 as an example. That year, Texas billionaire Ross Perot mounted an independent bid for president, taking votes from Republican President George Bush and helping to elect Democrat President Bill Clinton.

Palin, McCain’s 2008 vice presidential running mate on Monday, ridiculed members of the Republican establishment who have not embraced the movement.

“The bigwigs within the machine, they are driving me crazy, because they are too chicken to come out and support the Tea Party candidates,” Palin said. “Some of you need to man up.”

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Nick Carey in Chicago, Editing by Philip Barbara)

Analysis: Tea Party aims at Democrats, Republicans alike