- - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Take two hypothetical candidates. The first served one term as an elected official. He cut the size of his office and cut spending. He has been involved with tea party groups, and a large number of local tea party groups and activists support him.

The other has no record as an elected official. As a presidential appointee, he helped oversee the largest increase in government before Barack Obama.

Who is the tea party candidate? Most people would pick the first candidate.

These candidates are not hypothetical. This is the Nebraska Senate race between Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse.

Two groups have moved in and declared Sasse to be the tea party candidate.

The Nebraska Senate race has become the latest battlefield between tea party activists and Washington-based consultant groups that want to be the kingmakers of the conservative movement.

Selecting Sasse is consistent with what the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project have been doing. They picked five races they were going to be involved in. In four of the five, they picked candidates who have never before run for office to run for the U.S. Senate.

Only in Mississippi did they get behind state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who may very well knock off long time Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran.

In North Carolina, they decided to get behind Dr. Greg Brannon. Brannon was sued for misleading investors on a smartphone application he was trying to launch. The jury trial came in the middle of the campaign, which did not help.

A few days before the election, Brannon was asked if he believed 9/11 was an inside job. He refused to answer the question.

In Kentucky is another of the candidates they are backing — Matt Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A few weeks ago, Bevin decided to address a rally dedicated to allowing cockfighting in Kentucky. Bevin told the group that “criminalizing behavior [presumably cockfighting] that is a part of the heritage of this state is, in my opinion, a bad idea.”

A reporter obtained video of Bevin’s remarks. When he confronted Bevin about those remarks, Bevin lied. When the video was produced, Bevin apologized.

These groups that want to take over the tea party movement are busy going after conservatives. In Kansas, they are challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, who has a 90 rating from the American Conservative Union. Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell has an 80 rating. In North Carolina, they went after Thom Tillis, who has a 100 state ACU rating.

Meanwhile, there are two shocking elections they are not involved in. The first is South Carolina against Sen. Lindsay Graham, and the other is Tennessee against Sen. Lamar Alexander.

If polled, tea party activists would probably name them as the two Republican senators most deserving of being voted out this election cycle and replaced with tea party challengers.

Yet these groups who would be the kingmakers in the tea party movement are totally absent from South Carolina and Tennessee.

Perhaps it is more than just politics that drives these groups.

The tea party movement sprang to life in 2009. It was and remains a leaderless “We the people” movement.

The day the tea party surrenders to well-paid, Karl Rove-style, Washington consultants who want to be the arbiters of who is a tea party candidate will be the day the tea party movement dies.

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