The Tea Party as the GOPs Psycho Ex-Girlfriend in 2012

Terrance Heath

Much as I loathe the woman, I’m hearing stuff that almost makes me consider donning a "Palin in 2012" button. Not because I want to see her elected (*shudder*). And not out of morbid curiosity

But because of what her candidacy could do to the election — and to the GOP.

Like, putting states in the Democratic column that haven’t gone Democratic since before I was born.

The last time a Democratic presidential candidate carried either South Dakota or Nebraska in a general election was the same year that the Beatles released their debut U.S. album. Yet if the Republican Party nominates Sarah Palin for president, two PPP polls indicate that President Obama would have a strong chance of bringing both states into the Democratic column for the first time in a half century.

In Nebraska, PPP found Palin leading Obama by just one point, 45% to 44%. Compare that to last cycle, when John McCain won the state by 15 points — though, since Nebraska awards some electors to the winner of each congressional district, Obama did take one electoral vote for winning Omaha’s district. In 2004, George Bush trounced John Kerry by 33 points there.

In South Dakota, the bad omen for a Palin presidential bid is even starker. There, PPP found her outright trailing Obama by eight points, 48% to 40%.

That’s via Michael Tomasky, who adds:

PPP’s Tom Jensen says that if the GOP nominates Palin, and circumstances are more or less as they are now (Obama at 50, 51%), the only safe Republican states would be ones John McCain won by 20 points or more. In other words, she’d win Idaho, Oklahoma, Utah, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and probably eke out a few more, maybe reaching 100 electoral votes, if she managed to hold Texas, where man once walked with dinosaur.

The only thing more tantalizing than what could happen if the GOP does nominate Palin is what the Tea Party will do if they don’t.

Nearly half of the Republican Primary voters who support Sarah Palin say they are at least somewhat likely to vote for a third-party candidate if she does not win the GOP presidential nomination.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 46% of Likely Republican Primary Voters who favor Palin say they are at least somewhat likely to vote third-party if she isn’t nominated. That includes 22% who say it is Very Likely.

Damn.

See here’s the problem. Actually, there are a couple.

On the one hand, It would be sweet to see the GOP go through what the Democrats went through when Nader split the liberal vote so effectively he even got some Republican support towards that end. (Would progressives do the same, if Palin were nominated, and contribute to her campaign? Would we be able to finish writing the checks before our heads burst into flame?)

If 46% of likely GOP primary voters are somewhat likely to vote for a third party candidate (and 22% very likely) if Palin doesn’t get the GOP nod, how many would actually carry out that threat in the voting booth? It’s hard to say. Observing the GOP/Tea Party relationship is like watching a codependent relationship between an antisocial personality and borderline personality, with liberal doses of both histrionic personality and paranoid personality (Glenn Beck’s latest is one example).

You never know what’s going to happen, but you can be pretty sure they’re not going to break up. They need each other, because (a) neither would have gotten this far without the other, and (b) no one else is likely to have them.

The GOP knows it’s in a dangerous situation, now that it has to govern and all. Things that were attractive in the courting stage — that unbridled passion, mixed with near obsessive devotion and manic energy — are a little troublesome when it’s time to settle down. The wild ideas that were refreshingly spontaneous ("Hey, wouldn’t it be great/hot/cool if we…?"), become the impossible demands ("If you really loved me, you would…") that could lose you the sweet gig you just landed.

Kind of like the risk the GOP faces in bowing to the Tea Party’s demands.

According to the Gallup Poll, 70% of Americans, including 88% of Republicans, say it is important for Republican leaders in Congress to "take the Tea Party movement’s positions and objectives into account" in addressing the nation’s problems.

As Margie Omero has pointed out in a recent post, asking whether the GOP should take the Tea Party’s views into account sets a rather low bar for measuring support for the movement. Gallup as well as other polling organizations have found that less than a third of the public actually consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party and that as many if not more Americans hold negative views of the movement as hold positive views.

…On every issue included in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, strong Tea Party supporters were far more conservative than the overall public. Moreover, they were remarkably consistent in their conservative views. Forty-seven percent of strong Tea Party supporters took consistently conservative positions on the issues of gun control, birthright citizenship, government regulation, and health care repeal compared with only 15% of the entire public. Seventy-five percent of strong Tea Party supporters took the conservative side on at least three of these four issues compared with only 32% of the entire public.

With strong Tea Party supporters now making up almost half of their party’s electoral base, Republican leaders clearly will have to take the views of this group into account in governing. However, the evidence presented here indicates that simply adopting the Tea Party’s positions could pose serious risks for the GOP because the views of this group appear to be well to the right of those of the American public on a wide range of issues.

But it’s clear the GOP is either weighing the dangers now, or is too scared to "Stop Walking on Eggshells," because right now Republicans are doing what the Tea Party wants, instead what the majority of Americans want.

The new Congress was elected by promising things to voters, but now in office they are doing different things. It is as if they said what they needed to say to get votes, but had a plan to do something else all along. The big question on everyone’s mind: where is the job creation effort they promised? What is the plan?

After winning the midterms by running against Democrats for not creating enough jobs fast enough, Republicans are in charge of the House. So what are they doing? Well, not much on creating jobs — that’s for sure.

…According to the Library of Congress’ Thomas database, the House is now working on the following bills, in order:

  • H.R. 3: Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.
  • H.R. 4: Companies don’t have to report payments of $600 or more to the IRS…
  • H.R. 5: Medical Tort reform – make it difficult or impossible for injured patients to sue for damages, can’t collect more than $250,000, no matter what harm the hospital does…
  • H.R. 10: Prevent the executive branch from issuing any regulations…
  • H.R. 22: Pipeline Safety and Community Empowerment Act of 2011.
  • H.R. 25: Repeal the income tax and abolish the IRS…
  • H.R. 26: Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act.
  • H.R. 27: Lumbee Recognition Act. (Federal recognition is hereby extended to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina…)
  • H.R. 29: Withdrawal of the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement… (OK, withdrawing from NAFTA could be a job-creating act.)
  • H.R. 39 Delist polar bears from the endangered species list.
  • H.R. 72: the New Jobs for America Act of 2011. Finally, wayyy down the list is a bill that really has something to do with jobs: "To authorize the Secretary of Labor to make grants to States, units of local government, and Indian tribes to carry out employment training programs."
  • H.R. 87 To repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Right, repeal the modest financial reform that made it through last year. Right.

    . . . blah blah blah

Here’s the thing. In true "I Hate You. Please Don’t Leave Me," fashion, no matter how many times the threat is issued, it’s unlikely the Tea Party is ever really going to leave. Oh, it may yet to some damage to the GOP. The Tea Party already has a GOP hit list for 2012, that includes insufficiently conservative candidates (by Tea Party standards) like Olympia Snowe, Bill Lugar and Orin Hatch.

Leaders of more than 70 Tea Party groups in Indiana gathered last weekend to sign a proclamation saying they would all support one candidate — as yet undetermined — in a primary challenge to Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Republican who has represented the state since 1977.

They are organizing early, they say, to prevent what happened last year, when several Tea Party candidates split the vote in Republican Senate primaries, allowing the most establishment of the candidates to win with less than 40 percent.

…The early moves suggest that the pattern of the last elections, in which primaries were more fiercely contested than the general election in several states, may be repeated.

They also show how much the Tea Party has changed the definition of who qualifies as a conservative. While Ms. Snowe is widely considered a moderate Republican, Mr. Hatch is not. Mr. Lugar, similarly, defines himself as a conservative. He argues that he has consistently won praise from small-business groups, supported a balanced budget amendment and pushed for a reduction in farm subsidies and the closing of agricultural extension offices as part of an effort to reduce unnecessary spending — all initiatives that fall under the smaller government rubric of the Tea Party.

But the Tea Party isn’t going anywhere. At least that’s what a recent Daily Kos poll suggested.

In the generic congressional ballot:

Would you rather that more Democrats or more Republicans were elected to Congress in the next election? Would you rather that more Democrats or more Republicans were elected to Congress in the next election?

Democrats: 43 (42)

Republicans: 45 (46)

It’s an incremental gain, within the margin of error. The Tea Party respondents prove how independent they are by opting for the Republicans by a 88-7 margin — which is more reliably Republican than self-identified Republicans. No joking. Self-identified Republicans want more Republicans in Congress by a 84-7 margin.

My guess is that the Tea Party and the GOP can’t quit each other even if sometimes they want to. The Tea Party knows that this relationship is about the only thing that’s likely to get them anywhere near having a shot at even symbolic power and influence. And the GOP knows that it probably wouldn’t have gotten an invite to the party if its somewhat scary significant other, however unpopular, hadn’t helped it get in.

The old question of whether its better to have some faction inside the tent pissing out, instead of outside the tent pissing in doesn’t really apply here, because the only party the Tea Party looks poised to spoil is the Grand Old Party’s Party. The choice here is whether its better to have a "psycho current girlfriend" than a "psycho ex-girlfriend." Either way, you’re probably gonna need stitches. And therapy.

So, maybe I’ll forget about the Palin in 2012 button.

Besides, I don’t think she seriously wants to be president as much as she wants to be (a) famous, and (b) rich. The thing with Palin and 2012 is a bit like the "Moonlighting Effect," named for the 80s television show driven by the sexual tension between characters played by Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis, which became a lot less popular when their characters finally got it on, because there was not reason to watch anymore. (Kind of like"Sarah Palin’s Alaska," after the first episode.)

Likewise with Palin, as long as she keeps teasing out the possibility of  2012 run there’s a compelling reason for more than just her base (which consists mainly of the people who kept W’s approval ratings in the double digits towards the end) to care. That holds true if she runs. It would also mean more media attention for her, and a lot more entertainment value for the rest of us. If she decides not to run, then there’s not much reason for most of us to pay attention anymore.

And, whether or not she wants to be president, it’s pretty clear that Sarah Palin wants attention.

My guess is that she’ll get it, but she’s not going to get the nomination. She might make a strong start, but before things go to far, she’ll either quit, run out of steam, or fall so far behind in the primaries that she can’t possibly get the nomination. That way she gets another 15 minutes or so, the GOP placates the Tea Party, and the Tea Party faction that isn’t likely to go anywhere in the first place … won’t go anywhere.

So, neither Sarah Palin or the Tea Party is likely to be the GOP’s "psycho ex-girlfriend" in 2012.

That just leaves Michelle Bachmann.

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