Political shamans in both parties sought to characterize the midterm election results before the polls even opened Tuesday morning. But a funny thing happened on the way to Election Night 2014; just about all of them got it wrong. The simple reality is that tea party voters delivered the Senate to the Republican Party.
I know this comes as a shock to the commentariat, which proffered all manner of preposterous analyses of the midterm elections. We were told there “won’t be a mandate” if Republicans win control of the Senate. Some theorized that GOP control of Congress is irrelevant because”it doesn’t really matter who wins the Senate.” The New York Times went so far as to publish an essay by a college junior (who shared the byline with one of his professors), advising us to amend the Constitution and do away with midterm elections altogether, just to save us from ourselves. How very patrician.
The truth can be found in the outcome, which doesn’t require rocket science. Republican candidates won when and where they emphasized the issues most important to tea party voters: repealing Obamacare and starting over on health care, securing our borders, standing against amnesty for illegal immigrants, and reining in federal spending. These are the issues on which these winning Republicans ran, and they have now given us every reason to expect it reflects how they will govern come January.
Granted, Republicans were fortunate to be sharing the ballot this year not just with Democrat challengers but also with Obama administration policies, as the president himself reminded us. From Iowa to North Carolina, Arkansas to Montana, voters rejected Senate candidates who couldn’t get far enough away fast enough from Obama’s policies. Voters also rewarded candidates who ran on tea party principles. Don’t take my word for it, just read the results.
It’s no coincidence that establishment Republicans adopted tea party positions. The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund conducted considerable and ongoing research among likely Republican voters during primary season. Consistently, the top three issues for conservatives were Obamacare, amnesty, and the out-of-control national debt. Lo and behold, Republican Senate candidates eventually put their money where their mouths are and hammered Democrats on those three issues.
As for the claim that the 2014 midterm was a protest vote against President Obama rather than a vote for the Republican Party, I agree. Until wiser heads prevailed, too many establishment Republicans, guided by their establishment Republican consultants, were running content-free, value-neutral campaigns designed to stay out of the way of their opponents, whom they believed were in the process of destroying themselves. We’ve seen that movie before, and we know how it ends. Right, Sen. Tommy Thompson, or Sen. Denny Rehberg, or Sen. Rick Berg, or Sen. Connie Mack IV?
The tea party provided more than winning ideas to this Republican wave; our intensity was palpable in the lead-up to November 4. We knocked on tens of thousands of doors. We made 2.4 million get-out-the-vote phone calls in key battlegrounds like Iowa, Georgia and Kansas, often for candidates we didn’t originally support or endorse in primaries. We are team players – Team America, that is – who knew the only way to slow or stop the radical Obama agenda was to take away his rubber-stamp Senate.
Tea party enthusiasm made the difference. Gallup measured voter intensity in late October and revealed to the public what we had known all along: GOP victory in November would ride on the backs of tea party supporters. Fully 73 percent of us were “extremely motivated” or “very motivated” to vote Tuesday, compared with just 54 percent of Republicans who don’t identify with the Tea Party. We showed up on election day and – more importantly, given the weak state of the GOP’s ground game – in the weeks leading up to it. This from the people who presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to “crush” and “punch in the nose,” during the primaries. We did this because we care more about our country than we do about schoolyard bullying from the “leaders” of the GOP.
No one is happier than we that Harry Reid is receiving his pink slip as Majority Leader, and we made it happen. Luckily (this time) for the GOP, tea party supporters are committed to a core set of values – personal freedom, economic freedom, and a debt-free future. We will work toward those goals no matter which party is in power, and we will work with and for candidates who share those goals, no matter what party label they choose for themselves.
The Republicans have been given the ball. It’s up to them to show that they deserve it.
Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.