Tea Party Candidates As Penny Stocks

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 15 2010 2:01 PM

Tea Party Candidates As Penny Stocks

With the votes counted in Delaware, we can do some math. The total GOP vote in the U.S. Senate primary was 57,582; Christine O'Donnell won by 3,540 votes. In Alaska's U.S. Senate primary, the total GOP vote was 109,750; Joe Miller won by 2,006 votes. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) was ousted at the May GOP convention, where an estimated 3,500 delegates gave him only around 930 votes, 26.9%, on the second ballot. If he'd won 1404 votes to get to 40.1%, he would have fought on to a primary.

So I'm doing some rough estimation for Utah -- give Bennett 474 votes and he survives --  but add that in and you've got 6,020 people in three states who replaced "moderate" Republican Senate candidates with conservative ones. Am I diminishing the achievement of the Tea Party? I hope not. In other years, these moderates would have survived. But it's incredible how smart Freedomworks, the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Express, and Sarah Palin were in seeing the opportunities here. In Utah, the Club spent $200,000 against Bennett. In Alaska, the Tea Party Express spent around $550,000 against Lisa Murkoswki. In Delaware, it spent somewhat less than that. Boom, enough to pull three conservatives over the finish line.

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The primaries are basically over, but I see here why Republicans are annoyed that their map has been complicated a bit (well, except in Utah) by a few strategic investments by activists. One thing we can say is that the old saw, "voters in small states don't like outsiders picking their candidates," just isn't true anymore. The Tea Party is a national movement that plays well in every state's GOP base.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.