"Tea Party" Voters Present Challenge for GOP

(AP Photo/George Ruhe)
The Republican party is expected to make gains in the 2010 congressional elections, but the party's plans may be hampered by the "tea party" movement that gained steam over the summer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Protesters around the country this year demonstrated against President Obama's stimulus package and health care plans, giving Republicans a chance to unify and energize its base after four years of dismal election results. Those demonstrators, however, do not necessarily identify with the Republican party simply because they do not identify with Democrats.

The GOP is preparing to make a comeback with 2010 candidates that can appeal to broad constituencies, according to the Journal. For example, Dede Scozzafava is running in a special election next month for an open House seat representing upstate New York. Local Republican representatives chose Scozzafava for her political experience and commitment to family values, even though she supports abortion rights. Tea party activists, however, are getting behind Doug Hoffman, who calls himself the real conservative. The split among conservatives has left their Democratic opponent in the lead.

The Journal points to other examples in which the conservative activism of the summer has worked against the Republican party. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate but popular Republican, is running for the Senate, but faces a primary challenge from former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio, who is seeking tea party members' support.

Liberal Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who gained some notoriety this summer for striking back against extreme protesters, said Wednesday that he thinks Republicans made a mistake by encouraging the "tea party" movement.

"I think the conservatives made a big mistake morally as well as tactically," he said on HLN's Joy Behar Show. "I think they thought they were benefiting from all these crazies going out and venting. I think they realized that got in the way of the rational arguments they wanted to try to make ... So, I think you'll still see some of the negativity [remain], but it won't be as supported by the Republican apparatus."

The disaffected sentiment of conservatives who joined in the protests this summer has been embraced by personalities like Glenn Beck, who has gained a strong following from both his Fox News TV show and nationally-syndicated radio program. Last month, Beck told CBS News' Katie Couric that he believes the country would have been worse off with Republican Sen. John McCain as president than it is with Mr. Obama.

During the interview, Beck told Couric his viewers "don't care about the parties, they care about their life... They say, 'the Republicans have betrayed me, the Democrats have betrayed me... I don't see an exit strategy here.'"