The Tea Party Scorecard: First Edition

The Tea Party Scorecard: First Edition

The Tea Party Scorecard: First Edition

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 14 2010 6:28 PM

The Tea Party Scorecard: First Edition

The favorite line of Tea Party activists just so happens to be true. The turning point of their long war against the "establishment" was the nearly-successful campaign of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in New York’s 23rd district. Hoffman, aided by national endorsements from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, chased Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava out of the race at the 11th hour, as her campaign collapsed. Liberals saw it as a triumph of lunacy over electability, but it scared the D.C. committees out of endorsing their other sure-thing, best-bet establishment candidates.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post. 


As the primaries come to a close – every state except Hawaii will have completed them tonight – we can see the results of NY-23. The Republican establishment has quietly encouraged its chosen candidates, but occasionally been caught flat-footed by the out-of-nowhere Tea Party movement. Tonight, voters pick candidates in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, and we’ll witness the final victories – or defeats – of the Tea Party inside the GOP. Here’s the scorecard so far for gubernatorial and federal races. The criteria for whether a candidate was a Tea Party outsider – an endorsement from Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, the Tea Party Express, or FreedomWorks, or local Tea Party groups.


I’m watching all of the primaries tonight, focusing on the intra-Republican challenges. But I’m also looking for the vote margins in the Democratic races, and for turnout overall. The single most ominous fact of the primaries so far, for Democrats, is that GOP turnout has beat their turnout by 4 million votes.

Alabama (0/3)


Establishment picks: Tim James for governor, Mo Brooks and Martha Roby for Congress

Tea Party picks: Robert Bentley, Les Phillip and Rick Barber


Results: A Tea Party rout, which had more to do with the generally agreeable conservatism of the "establishment" candidates than the movement’s weakness.

Alaska (1/1)

Establishment pick: Sen. Lisa Murkowski?Tea Party pick: Joe Miller

Results: Miller won. He had Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Express, and local Tea Party groups on his side and pulled the upset.

Arizona (1/2)

Establishment picks: Sen. John McCain, Jonathan Patton in AZ-08?Tea Party picks: J.D. Hayworth for Senate, Jesse Kelly in AZ-08

Results: McCain won, aided by Palin, local Tea Party groups, and the general awfulness of Hayworth; Kelly won with Palin’s endorsement.

California (0/1)

Establishment pick: Carly Fiorina, a candidate for the Senate

Tea Party pick: Chuck DeVore

Results: Fiorina won, aided by her own support from conservatives like Palin and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Colorado (2/2)

Establishment picks: Scott McInniss for governor, Jane Norton for Senate

Tea Party picks: Dan Maes and Ken Buck

Results: Both of the insurgents won, although Maes has spent the month since then defying calls to quit the race for someone electable.

Connecticut (0/1)

Establishment pick: Linda McMahon for Senate

Tea Party pick: Peter Schiff

Results: Schiff, a libertarian economist, never caught fire the way his ideological ally Rand Paul did.

Florida (2/3)

Establishment picks: Daniel Webster in FL-08, Charlie Crist for Senate, and Bill McCollum for governor.

Tea Party picks: Todd Young in FL-08, Marco Rubio for Senate, and Rick Scott for governor.

Results: Only Webster, who entered the race late and locked up from people like Huckabee, outwitted the Tea Party.

Idaho (0/1)

Establishment pick: Vaughn Ward for Congress

Tea Party pick: Raul Labrador

Results: This one was a mess. The national GOP and Palin both liked Ward. Local activists liked Labrador. The Tea Party Express gave its lone Democratic endorsement to Rep. Walt Minnick, the man they wanted to defeat. But Ward stumbled in debates and lost to Labrador, who did a better job of courting the movement.

Illinois (1/3)

Establishment picks: Rep. Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate, Kirk Dillard for governor, Kathleen Parker for IL-10

Tea Party picks: Pat Hughes for U.S. Senate, Adam Andrewjeski for governor, Robert Dold for IL-10

Results: Kirk’s rout and Andrewjeski’s poor showing inspired a few news outlets to prematurely declare the Tea Party’s political power overrated. It’s clear now, however, that the movement’s political organs just needed more money and experience – Illinois’s February primary was too early to take advantage of.

Indiana (0/2)

Establishment pick: Dan Coats for U.S. Senate, Dan Burton for Congress

Tea Party pick: Marlin Stutzman, multiple candidates against Burton

Results: Stutzman, aided by Jim DeMint, outperformed the polls but lost a three-way race; Burton’s vote collapsed, but he got more support than any one challenger. Stutzman got a happy ending: After Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) was felled by a sex scandal, Sutzman won the right to run and replace him.

Iowa (1/2)

Establishment picks: Terry Branstad for governor, Jim Gibbons for Congress

Tea Party picks: Bob Vander Plaats, Brad Zaun

Results: Branstad, helped by a surprising Palin endorsement that offended some of her Iowa supporters, held off Vander Plaats; Zaun surprised everyone.

Kansas (0/1)

Establishment pick: Jerry Moran for Senate.

Tea Party pick: Todd Tiahrt for Senate.

Results: Tiahrt, lost despite support from Palin and the Tea Party Express and a campaign based on his down-the-line conservatism.

Kentucky (2/2)

Establishment picks: Trey Grayson for U.S. Senate, Jeff Reetz for KY-3

Tea Party picks: Rand Paul, Todd Lally

Results: Paul and Lally easily won; in the latter race, a wealthy restaurant owner was defeated by a commercial pilot.

Michigan (2/2)

Establishment picks: Mickey Switalski, Jason Allen

Tea Party picks: Andrew Raczkowski, Dan Banishek

Results: The Tea Party candidates entered their races long before the movement really got going, and kept their support after stronger-on-paper candidates came in. Banishek triumphed by 15 votes in his primary, a reward for taking on Bart Stupak when no one else would.

Missouri (1/1)

Establishment pick: Bill Stouffer for Congress

Tea Party pick: Vicky Hartzler

Results: Hartzler, who had retired from politics and was viewed nervously by the local GOP, upset Stouffer, a state senator.

Nevada (1/1)

Establishment pick: Sue Lowden

Tea Party pick: Sharron Angle

Results: The Tea Party benefited from Harry Reid’s successful kneecapping of Lowden, his best-polling opponent, and got Angle over the finish line, where she immediately emerged as a "problematic" candidate who needed D.C. aides to bail her out.

New Jersey (1/2)

Establishment pick: Diane Gooch and Jon Runyan for Congress

Tea Party pick: Anna Little and Justin Murphy

Results: Little, a local mayor, narrowly defeated the self-funding newspaper publisher Gooch. Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagle, held off Murphy by 18 points.

Pennsylvania (2/2)

Establishment picks: Arlen Specter, Mary Beth Buchanan for Congress

Tea Party picks: Pat Toomey, Keith Rothfus

Results: Toomey scared Specter out of the GOP, while Rothfus helped Buchanan disprove the truism that U.S. Attorneys make good candidates.

South Carolina (3/3)

Establishment picks: Gresham Barrett for governor, Strom Thurmond and Trey Gowdy for Congress.

Tea Party picks: Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Rep. Bob Inglis.

Results: It was a rout – the establishment lost every race, and handily. Barrett and Inglis never overcame their support for TARP.

Texas (0.5/1)

Establishment pick: Kay Bailey Hutchison for governor.

Tea Party pick: Debra Medina.

Results: Medina, a Ron Paul supporter, surged in the final month of the campaign but imploded after appearing to indicate that she had doubts about the official story of 9/11. But it wasn’t a big Tea Party defeat – Rick Perry, re-nominated for governor.

Utah (1/1)

Establishment pick: Sen. Bob Bennett

Tea Party pick: Mike Lee

Results: Lee was one of two candidates who beat Bennett at the state convention before narrowly winning the party primary, aided by FreedomWorks and Jim DeMint.

Virginia (0/2)

Establishment picks: Robert Hurt and Scott Rigell for Congress

Tea Party picks: Multiple opponents of Hurt and Rigell

Results: In another election over-interpreted as a major Tea Party defeat, Hurt and Rigell overwhelmed their divided opposition.

Washington (0/2)

Establishment picks: Dino Rossi for Senate, Jaime Herrera for Congress

Tea Party picks: Clint Didier for Senate, David Castillo for Congress

Results: The Tea Party candidates entered their races before there was any sign of Democratic trouble, and were easily defeated by candidates who jumped in after the pickings looked easy.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.