More wins for tea party backed candidates

September 15, 2010 1:39:08 PM PDT
The Tea Party is here and a factor.

At least in the primaries.

No way either the Democrats or, especially, the Republicans can deny that, not after strong showings last night by Tea Party-backed candidates.

Two big examples: The Republican Congressman from Delaware, Michael Castle, will be going home after Christine O'Donnell's Tea Party-led campaign stunned the GOP veteran. (She's the one who, running against then-Senator Joe Biden, called Barack Obama "anti-American.")

And Carl Paladino's stunning victory in the Republican primary for New York Governor shows that the Tea Party has been effective in the Empire State. Rick Lazio, the Republican party-backed candidate, pulled a John McCain-like sell-your-soul campaign by leading the charge against the Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero, hoping to curry favor with conservative Republicans who have long been weary of the relatively moderate Lazio. So he embraced an issue that seemed against his personality, and he lost anyway.

There's much bellowing about how the Democrats are in trouble because of the Tea Party. They may be in trouble as the party in power, but many pols believe it's the Republican establishment that's most at risk by the Tea Party's rise.

Consider this: Congressman Castle becomes the eighth candidate supported by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to be defeated this year.

Is there a war within the GOP as the Tea Party flexes its primary election muscles? Will its politics hold up in a general election? And how will the Republican Party handle what amounts to a political insurgence? It will be a fascinating fall campaign.

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT TEA PARTY BACKED SUCCESS? Let us know in our 7online.com interaction blog.

Today, Republican leaders are trying to figure out how to embrace their newly powerful brethren. (Recently former Sen. Trent Lott opined that Republicans would have to "co-opt" Tea Party candidates. You can imagine the reaction.)

Karl Rove, the conservative strategist behind George W. Bush's election victories, said last night that Delaware's O'Donnell was a weak candidate and Democrats would likely win the Senate seat come November. Today, a Tea Party leader said Rove should "stay out of it" and called Rove's description of O'Donnell "disgraceful."

The Tea Party also figures to do battle with the Republican Party in New York. What role will it play in the Paladino versus Andrew Cuomo battle for Governor?

Paladino, a multi-millionaire who is reportedly prepared to spend $10 million of his own money in the campaign is a free-wheeling, speak-his-mind kinda guy. He was successful in getting Tea Party supporters for his primary battle; and he'll now try to expand that support for the general election. It will not be easy in a state where Democrats so outnumber Republicans. There's a reason "Northeast Republicans" became a subset of the GOP, and why these moderates Pataki and Giuliani are two examples were elected and reelected.

One thing's for sure, it could be a lively election!

So who is Carl Paladino? Our political reporter Dave Evans sat down with him in Buffalo. His interview airs tonight at 11.

One more political note: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg held the record for spending more of his own money to get elected than any other candidate ever in the U.S.

Until today.

Bloomberg spent $109 million last year. Today, Republican California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman injected another $15 million into her campaign, bringing her total to $119 million.

Speaking of Bloomberg, Hizzoner has already cracked down on smoking in restaurants and many public places. Now he's pushing a plan to ban smoking in parks and at beaches.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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