I had several interesting conversations over the weekend with people who worked to help elect some tea party candidates in November. One has actually chosen to move to DC and is now working on The Hill for that same person. Both are strongly conservative and like the message of The Tea Party.
But, they are both convinced that the Tea Party will be the reason that President Obama gets re-elected. One was telling that while she was very happy to get the volunteers in to help her candidate, they were more problems than what they were worth. They would refuse to use the phone banking systems once they found that the party paid for them, they wouldn't do the door knocking in the targeted way the campaign wanted them to and just all around gave her a hard time. Again, the person she was working for was beloved by The Tea Party and because of them they were able to raise enough money to be competitive in the race when they were way down in the polls, but as the poll numbers raised, the support from the party did as well. That was when the campaign was really able to afford more targeted campaigning.
Regardless of how you feel about the party and who they choose to stand behind financially, they play an important role in getting people elected. The get out the vote efforts are usually paid for by the party as well as the phone systems that will allow a candidate to do advanced phone banking. Any candidate would be crazy to turn that down. I have heard people say that they won't send the party money and part of the reason is that they don't necessarily back the candidates that they want them to back. While it is true that the party has to pick and choose, it wouldn't make sense for them to pour a great deal of limited resources into a race that doesn't look a win is possible. It doesn't matter if they are truly a good candidate or not. The money is limited and needs to be spent on the candidates that have a viable chance of winning.
Some of the people I spoke to are still smarting over the loss of some of the senate seats that they felt were winnable had it not been for the tea party, but that is neither here nor there at this point. What's done is done and they need to get over it. But there are some lessons to be learned by what they are saying. Campaigns are very expensive and the party is necessary to help with that in many cases. The Tea Party can't possibly fully finance every candidate that they like, especially in the next cycle when there will be a presidential election as well.
I am not sure what the lesson that I learned from these conversations was, but it was interesting to hear what they had to say. I guess the main lesson that I learned was that if we really want to make a change it has to be done from within, and the tea party is going to have to work with the party in order to change to it.
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