Tea party 4, everyone else 0

In Wisconsin, tea party members led an historic drive to defend Scott Walker’s policies, resulting in a massive victory for taxpayers in that state and a redefining of conservatives’ national fight to end America’s fiscal crisis. The Wisconsin effort also highlighted the maturation process among local tea party groups, many of whom used the latest technology platforms, like Gravity, to target, message, track and mobilize voters. This, combined with their traditional grassroots tactics, resulted in turnout that in many areas exceeded projections by more than 60%.

The tea party’s success in 2012 is due to a range of factors, but its own evolution from a protest movement to a more tactical, substantive operation is the biggest reason. The fiscally conservative, pro-growth message hasn’t changed, but the messengers and methods have. The tea party is picking better candidates this year than it did in 2010, when local groups were either co-opted or ignored by the likes of Tea Party Express and other phony, “corporate” entities that rammed bad choices down the throats of inexperienced local leaders. The result then was the selection of candidates who were train wrecks and damaged the movement’s credibility.

This year, local groups are far more involved than they were in 2010, and they are making much better choices. There will be no Christine O’Donnells or Sharron Angles in 2012. Mourdock, Fischer and Cruz will be substantive, credible and formidable opponents for their liberal Democratic opposition. Their adoption of new mobilization strategies is demonstrating to even well-heeled progressive groups that the game is changing on the conservative side.

The tea party is no longer the mouse that roared. It’s a lion and it’s here to stay. Republicans and Democrats — the left — beware.

Ned Ryun is the founder and president of American Majority, the nation’s leading conservative grassroots training organization. Learn more at www.AmericanMajority.org.