- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2011

Republicans, once ecstatic about the energy generated by the 2009 anti-spending tea party uprising, are growing increasingly uneasy about the impact in 2012 of a movement that seems beyond the control of anyone, including its own leaders.

“The nature of the tea party and liberty movement is that there really are very few, if any, authoritative spokespersons,” said Ryan Call,Colorado GOP chairman.

“The fact that the grass-roots movement is somewhat leaderless is one of its strengths, but it also makes the movement susceptible to individuals or groups co-opting the ‘tea party label in inappropriate and damaging ways, like we saw in the May 24 New York 26th [Congressional] District special election.”

In interviews with The Washington Times, Republicans said they see two problems ahead.

One is that Democrats benefit from fake tea party candidates siphoning crucial votes from a Republican candidate.

The other is the ongoing tendency of the Republican establishment to invite tea party rebellions by picking more-liberal candidates, such as Dede Scozzafava, who lost another Republican-leaning New York congressional district in a special election in 2009.

In last week’s New York election, Democrat Kathy Hochul upset Republican Jane Corwin, 47 percent to 43 percent.

Millionaire Jack Davis drained votes from Mrs. Corwin by spending $3 million of his own money to gather enough petition signatures to get himself on the ballot identified as the “tea party” candidate, despite a history of running as a Democrat and his liberal stances on spending and other key tea party issues.

Some Republican operatives blamed the confusion on the failure of local tea party groups to unite behind Mrs. Corwin and to expose Mr. Davis as a fake.

“The local Republican Party in that district should have reached out to tea party types to make sure Davis, who got 9 percent of the vote, didn’t get the traction he needed in order to get that 9 percent,” longtime Republican campaign consultant Kenny Klinge said.

Mr. Klinge predicted the tea party “will be more of hindrance than an asset in 2012 if the Republican leadership doesn’t reach out to the tea party.”

Rus Thompson, a New York tea party coordinator, said the organizations did unite to use their email lists to expose Mr. Davis as a fraud.

“But we don’t have any money to put out expensive mailers or run TV ads, and I was so frustrated with local news media that kept portraying Davis as the tea party candidate,” Mr. Thompson said.

But New York state GOP Chairman Ed Cox denied that.

“All the tea party groups were not united against Davis, and Davis suppressed some a portion of our vote that is concerned about jobs going abroad,” Mr. Cox said.

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