Conservatives (tea party, et al) and Republicans better learn to get along. Quickly. Just as quickly, the two need to recruit, vet, and prep some A-list candidates. Candidates for offices from President down to school boards.
That’s because the winners in 2012 will either belong to a conservative coalition or the most radical elements of the Democrat Party. Here’s why.
Pollster Frank Luntz points out in today’s Washington Post that the largest ideological faction in the United States is the combination of GOP plus tea partiers:
[W]hen asked "which best represents your views?," about a third of registered voters, 36 percent, chose Democrats, while 25 percent chose the GOP and 22 percent opted for the tea party. Together, Republicans and the tea party movement represent 47 percent of America to the Democrats’ 36 percent. That’s a recipe for massive electoral success in 2012 if they stay united, but unprecedented failure if they pull apart.
That means that the American electorate thinks the way it did in 1980 and 1994: conservative, not Republican. We expect elected officials to be likewise. The reason some “tea party” candidates lost had more to do with their personas and less to do with their politics. Voters in Nevada and Delaware saw Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell as less than serious.
Peggy Noonan explains beautifully (as always) in a recent Wall Street Journal column:
Even in a perfect political environment, those candidates who were conservative but seemed strange, or unprofessional, or not fully qualified, or like empty bags skittering along the street, did not fare well. The tea party provided the fire and passion of the election, and helped produce major wins—Marco Rubio by 19 points! But in the future the tea party is going to have to ask itself: Is this candidate electable? Will he pass muster with those who may not themselves be deeply political but who hold certain expectations as to the dignity and stature required of those who hold office? [emphasis added]
There are many in the tea party movement who need to understand that last sentence. Supporting candidates who believe 100 percent what you believe but have zero percent chance of winning is a “principled” decision if there is a reasonable alternative who can win.