The head of the Democratic National Committee said Wednesday that the victory of the candidate backed by the Republican Party establishment in the North Carolina Senate primary does not signal the decline of the tea party’s power.
“On the contrary, the tea party has won the civil war that has been raging inside the Republican Party,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida Democrat who chairs the DNC, told reporters at a breakfast discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
She said that the win by North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis in the primary Tuesday demonstrates how the tea party has forced the Republican Party to adopt more “extreme” conservative positions.
“Tom Tillis is no longer — if he ever was — an ‘establishment’ candidate. He has been dramatically pulled to the right,” she said. “As speaker of the House, he has presided over some of the most extreme right-wing policies that have ever been enacted by a legislature. He has taken positions, by being forced to the right, and I’m assuming he’s done that willingly. He certainly seems to have gleefully engaged in some of the policies he’s put forward.”
She added: “That’s what I think is going to continue to cause the Republicans problems in winning elections.”
Mr. Tillis, who had endorsements from Republican establishment figures such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, handily defeated a crowded field that included tea party-backed rivals to win the nomination to face incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan.
The North Carolina race is considered key to the Republican drive to pick up six seats and win control of the Senate in November, a feat that the GOP is poised to accomplish.
But Ms. Wasserman Schultz insisted that the tea party influence on Republican candidates, regardless of whether they are considered part of the party establishment, will make them vulnerable in general election match-ups against Democrats.
“They are taking positions that are out of step with mainstream voters, particularly independents who are ultimately going to decide the outcome of these elections,” she said.
• S.A. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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