Why GOP voters are rejecting establishment candidates

Matt Kibbe President, FreedomWorks
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This article is the second installment in a three-part series on the Tea Party. You can find the first installment here. The final article in the series will appear next week.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the sweeping 2010 midterm elections and this year’s historic Senate primary upsets in Indiana and Texas, it’s this: If you’re focused on politics over policy, you will lose.

When presented with an option, Republican voters will choose the boldest fiscal conservative with the strongest ability to connect with the grassroots.

At its core, the Tea Party, and the larger freedom movement it represents, is about much more than simply getting people elected. This grassroots uprising is bound together by a shared commitment to the ideas of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government. The political process is simply the vessel used by the freedom community to advance these ideas.

The mission of this election cycle is not to find the next Ronald Reagan to occupy the Oval Office. Instead, grassroots conservatives are supporting candidates across the ballot who best represent the values of freedom and individual liberty, and replacing those who don’t — regardless of political party.

In my column last week, I discussed the overwhelming voter turnout in Indiana for U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. Many in the media and the political establishment questioned whether the “Hoosier Model” of grassroots organizing was an anomaly, an outlier victory that could not be replicated in larger states like Texas.

Yet in Texas, the second largest state by size and population in the country, the state GOP’s preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, couldn’t pass the grassroots test. Voters discovered the establishment-approved candidate had a disappointing record of increasing state spending and supporting tax increases as president of the State Senate. Fiscally conservative Texans united around Ted Cruz, a constitutional expert with a strong commitment to pro-growth economic policy, as an alternative to the establishment’s choice.

Cruz began his campaign with only two percent name recognition and was outspent by Dewhurst four to one. But grassroots activists immediately took action, making 800,000 calls to targeted voters and setting up 50 campaign centers across the state. These freedom fighters distributed 125,000 door hangers, 20,000 yard signs, and 9,000 bumper stickers to educate voters on Ted Cruz. As a result, Cruz is positioned to be the next U.S. senator from Texas.

There is a clear electoral trend occurring across the United States at all levels of government. Fiscal conservatives aren’t accepting establishment-picked candidates at face value; they are looking at voting records and vetting the candidates themselves.

This trend explains the groundswell of enthusiasm for other economically conservative underdogs like Senate candidate Tom Smith in Pennsylvania, who is polling within single digits of his Democratic opponent in a race that was expected to be a shoo-in for Democrats.

It explains why activists across Ohio have knocked on over 562,500 doors and made almost 500,000 calls for Josh Mandel, the current state treasurer of Ohio who has eliminated waste within the state’s budget, strengthened pension programs, and created state budget surpluses.

It explains why over 100,000 yard signs have been distributed throughout Florida to support Connie Mack, whose “Penny Plan” is one of the most innovative, reasonable, and realistic plans for deficit reduction currently in existence.

The electoral trend for 2012 is clear: bold fiscal conservatives who have earned grassroots support from the freedom community will prevail on Election Day. And as we have already begun to see, weak Republican candidates who put power and political party over solid economic principles will struggle at the ballot box come November.

I’ll have more on that thought next week, in my final installment in this series.

Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks and author of the “Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America.