Tea Party is electing Democrats

February 11, 2013 

  • At issue: Jan. 23 Herald-Leader article, "Tea Party groups plot defeat of McConnell; super PAC might join ouster effort"

John T. Kemper III of Lexington, leader of the United Kentucky Tea Party, and others are said to be "plotting a strategy to defeat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary."

Kemper has no chance of becoming a senator because general election voters won't support him. General election voters will support McConnell.

Look at the 2012 results here. Mitt Romney got 60.5 percent of the vote in Kentucky, and Barack Obama got 37.8 percent. McConnell would defeat possible Democratic challenger Ashley Judd handily.

One Tea Party elitist said "conservatives wouldn't or couldn't support Romney." The results say they did. I personally know Tea Partiers who worked for Romney, putting up signs, making phone calls, and going door to door. They helped Romney get his impressive Kentucky victory.

I am not a Tea Party member. I am a Republican activist with more than 28 years on the Kenton County Republican Party executive committee.

The Tea Party's hyper-conservatism has gotten me to the point where the term "conservative" causes me to retch.

The Tea Party has been a disaster in U.S. Senate races. Republicans had good chances to win several seats in 2010 and 2012, but state Tea Party groups injected their candidates into the primaries, and the results were disastrous. They won the primaries then lost the general elections. Look at the 2010 races.

■ Colorado: Ken Buch (TP) beat GOP candidate Jane Norton in the primary then lost the general election to Democrat Michael Bennett.

■ Delaware: Christine O'Donnell (TP) beat GOP candidate Mike Castle in the primary then lost the to Democrat Chris Cooms.

■ Nevada: Sharron Angle (TP) beat GOP candidate Sue Lowden in the primary then lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The Tea Party candidates won the primaries because their hyper-conservatism appealed to more conservative Republicans who outnumbered the more moderate and liberal ones. They lost the general elections because their voter base was too narrow. Moderates, liberals and Democrats wouldn't vote for them because of their stridency.

Look what happens when a Republican candidate can draw from a bigger base.

In 2010, the New Hampshire Senate seat was held by Republican Judd Gregg, who was retiring. Kelly Ayotte, the GOP candidate and a more moderate conservative, defeated Ovide Lamontagne (TP) in the primary. Ayotte got 38 percent of the vote and Lamontagne got 37 percent. But in the general election, Ayotte got 60 percent and Democrat Paul Hodes got 36.8 percent.

Why did Ayotte do so well? Because, as a moderate, she appealed to a broader range of voters, and the results show it.

In 2012, the Tea Party repeated its mistake in Indiana. Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock beat incumbent GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary then lost to Joe Donnelly, a blue dog Democrat. It was Colorado, Delaware and Nevada all over again, only this time, we lost a Republican seat.

The Tea Party is making two major mistakes:

■ It has spent its time taking out Republicans who aren't considered conservative enough instead of defeating Democrats.

■ It needs to understand it can't do anything to improve government if it can't win general elections.

In Kentucky, the Tea Party elitists' intent to sabotage McConnell is another incredibly stupid mistake.

At issue: Jan. 23 Herald-Leader article, "Tea Party groups plot defeat of McConnell; super PAC might join ouster effort"

Ted Smith is a former chairman of the Kenton County Republican Party.

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