Tea Party Group Vows No More Christine O’Donnell’s Or Sharron Angle’s
At least one group of Tea Party activists seems to realize that their biggest mistake of the 2010 election cycle was backing candidates like Christine O'Donnell who turned out to be their own worst enemies.
A group of Tea Party activists wants to ensure that the next round of candidates to come out of the grassroots don’t have the problems of Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle:
No more Christine O’Donnell’s or Sharron Angle’s.
That is the implicit goal of a million-dollar program intended to build a farm team of tea party candidates that was announced Tuesday morning by a pair of linked non-profit groups called American Majority and American Majority Action.
The tea party movement was hampered “by candidates who in the last election were not perceived as credible,” said Ned Ryun, who runs the groups along with his twin brother Drew.
So they are investing a “seven-figure” sum – which the Ryuns declined to enumerate precisely – in a program called the New Leader Project, which will work with local tea party groups around the country to recruit and train candidates and campaign managers for local and state offices, who could eventually run for Congress.
“New leaders must be found starting right now who have the ability to effectively communicate the ideas of free enterprise and limited government and fiscal responsibility, while at the same time running sound campaigns,” said Ned Ryun, who worked in the White House during the second Bush administration.
Although the Ryun’s did not mention any specific names, the idea behind the project seems to be preventing candidates with dim electoral prospects, such as O’Donnell and Angle, who lost what were seen as winnable Senate races in Delaware and Nevada earlier this month, from seizing the tea party mantle in lieu of more viable candidates.
Drew Ryun worked as a deputy director of the Republican National Committee during the 2004 election cycle, and his father Jim Ryun served five terms in Congress as a Republican representing Kansas. But the Ryun twins and American Majority have emerged as prominent operatives in the grassroots, anti-establishment tea party movement, which has bristled at the perception that it is merely an arm of the organized Republican Party.
At Tuesday’s announcement, the Ryuns surrounded themselves with a dozen local tea party activists from around the country who will participate in the New Leader Project, which has set a goal of identifying and training 10,000 candidates to run this year and next for offices from school board to state house.
“Voters will have the ability to not choose (between) the lesser of two evils, but to champion a genuine candidate who believes like we believe; that is detached from the political class, because they didn’t come from the political class,” said Chris Littleton, co-founder of the Ohio Liberty Council, which received more than $50,000 from American Majority Action to set up a phone bank to support tea party candidates in the run-up to this month’s election.
Think of it as the maturing, or the professionalization perhaps, of the Tea Party movement. Some purists will no doubt consider the idea of looking for the “right” candidate a form of selling out, but it seems like an inevitable move if the Tea Party movement, whatever that turns out to be and assuming it lasts much past 2012, intends to be a force within the GOP in the future. Without a stable of credible, prepared candidates, the movement is likely to fade into the background once Republicans more concerned with winning elections than ideology realize that nominating O’Donnells and Angles isn’t the path to victory.
You don’t need to look any further than the election results two weeks ago to see why candidate selection is so important. While candidates like O”Donnell, Angle, and Ken Buck went down to defeat, other “Tea Party” candidates like Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, and Rand Paul were victorious. Partly, that’s a reflection of the different states that these candidates were in, of course. However, there’s no question that Rubio, Toomey, and (despite initial mis-steps in May) Paul were far better candidates, and far better advised, than their compatriots in Delaware, Nevada, and Colorado. As I noted a few days after the elections, the losses the GOP suffered in Senate races were due primarily to the candidates they were running:
Angle lost because she gave Harry Reid more than enough ammunition with which to destroy her. Ken Buck lost because he spent far too much time talking about social issues. Carly Fiorina lost because she was a Republican in California. And, well, Christine O’Donnell lost because she’s Christine O’Donnell.
If the New Leader Project can help avoid those mistakes the next time around, it will have accomplished something.