June 7, 2012
By Heidi Przybyla
The Tea Party’s Senate focus is evident in the lack of House primary challenges.
Of the 187 House Republican incumbents who faced primaries this year, 176 of them won, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Of those who didn’t, six opted to run for the Senate, four lost in member-to-member primaries because of newly drawn districts, and one -- Jean Schmidt of Ohio --lost to a challenger with Tea Party support.
“The bang for your buck is in the Senate, not in the House,” said Michael McDonald, an associate government professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “It’s much more of a freewheeling environment and, with the filibuster, you don’t even need a majority in order to have a sizable effect.”
It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to end a filibuster, or an unlimited debate, that can stall legislative action.
Brendan Steinhauser, federal and state campaigns director with FreedomWorks, an organization started by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey of Texas and an ally of the Tea Party movement, said his group is training activists in phone banking, polling and door-to-door outreach in Texas and Indiana.
DeMint’s fundraising complements the grassroots effort.
In the 2010 election cycle, the Senate Conservatives Fund raised $9.3 million, more than the leadership PACs of all other senators and congressmen. This cycle, DeMint said his goal is to raise more than $10 million to “replace incumbent Democrats with conservative Republicans.”
The Texas legislature could provide a glimpse of where the Tea Party may take the Republican Party on the national level. While Texas House Speaker Joe Straus won his race in the May 29 primary, Tea Party-backed candidates ousted three of his allies, including Representative Rob Eissler, a nine-year incumbent who is chairman of the Public Education Committee.
The results leave many Republican lawmakers in Texas “wide-eyed and frightened,” said Calvin Jillson, who teaches political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “They survived this time, but they have to wonder, what about 2014 and elections down the road?” ...