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March 6, 2014

A Cup of Texas Tea

The Leftmedia narrative on Texas’ primaries was a bit off the mark.

Texas was the first state to have a primary for the 2014 election cycle, and the Tea Party scored a number of successes down the ballot. That didn’t stop Beltway pundits at ABC News or Politico from describing the Tea Party as faltering or having its best days behind it, mainly because Sen. John Cornyn won his primary. They failed to take into account the number of victories down the ballot, or the minor detail that Cornyn was virtually unchallenged.

Unlike 2010 and 2012, when Rick Perry and Ted Cruz won primaries with huge Tea Party support, there were races where several candidates tried to adopt the Tea Party mantle and split the vote. One example is the race for lieutenant governor, where incumbent David Dewhurst was forced into a runoff and received just 28% – the other 72% divided among a number of hopefuls, with Dan Patrick becoming the Tea Party favorite and leading the way. The same was true of the state’s attorney general race, where the “establishment” pick won just 33%, but no one else reached 50% in a crowded field.

A second hopeful sign was the massive amount of votes Republicans received in Texas’s open primary. As columnist Michael Barone points out, 71% of votes cast were on the Republican side. Or put another way, he says, “Yesterday’s results suggest that the ‘paint Texas blue’ project has not made much headway.” Since neither Republicans nor Democrats had a seriously contested race for governor, the action seemed to be determining just how conservative of a Republican would be nominated.

As always, the Beltway narrative is that the Tea Party is too “extreme” to win elections. In some cases, there’s no question the Tea Party nominated flawed candidates and failed to win previous elections that were winnable. Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Sharon Angle in Nevada and Todd Akin in Missouri come to mind. And in Texas, Rep. Steve Stockman ran a strange and sometimes non-existent campaign to unseat John Cornyn. But then again, not a single significant Tea Party group supported him.

The imperfect election record doesn’t negate Tea Party truth, which is that the government is too big and growing too fast, and that far too often Republicans are part of the problem. If the Tea Party can nominate solid candidates who articulate the basic message that those problems can be addressed by Liberty and constitutionally limited government, and if it can focus on good candidates competing in winnable races, the movement will be successful for years to come.

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