Monday, November 15, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

A quickie analysis of the Libertarian Party and Tea Party (C4L, Tea Party, 912, Liberty, Patriot and other like-minded groups) impact in the mid-term election of two weeks ago yields some interesting points. The massive GOP blowout that swept the party of Lincoln into power in the nation’s capitol has been credited to a great degree to “Tea Party” activity. With a few notable Senate exceptions (Angle (NV), Buck CO), perhaps Miller (AK) and O’Donnell (DE), most Tea Party endorsed or supported candidates were electorally successful and led the way to a 60-plus seat pickup in the House and at least a 6 seat gain in the Senate for Republicans.

A cursory glance at results in Ohio would suggest a similar outcome in the Buckeye state. There are some numbers that suggest, however, that the co-opted “Tea Party” activists lost some impact when they strayed beyond traditional GOP RINO candidates. A look back at the May 4th Primary Election reminds us that Sandy O’Brien (Secretary of State) and Seth Morgan (Auditor) were both favorites of the Ohio Tea Party groups. Each of them garnered around 30% of the Republican vote and failed to secure their respective nominations

Throughout the newly formed activist groups, righteous anger and disgust with how the state party apparatus had been used to advance the prospects of Dave Yost for Auditor and John Husted for Secretary of State was notable. An additional galling aspect was that Yost had changed from an Attorney General candidate to Auditor in order to provide an open field for former Senator, Mike DeWine, after some funny business with petitions for Tea Party AG favorite, Steve Christopher. Christopher failed to qualify for the ballot, and DeWine did, indeed, enjoy an open field.

Over the past ten months I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several dozen Tea Party-type groups. Almost without exception they pronounced their loathing of DeWine and his questionable conservative values. They also expressed heated discontent with Yost and Husted along with State Chair, Kevin DeWine. I sensed that grassroots were angry and would not blindly work for a victorious RINO slate. At their various meetings they often stated that it was time to teach the GOP a lesson---that the Republican Party could not take their allegiance for granted.

Robert Owens was the Constitution Party Chairman and its candidate for Ohio Attorney General. A former prosecutor he was an instrumental drafter of the Health Care Freedom Amendment, a statewide measure to repeal the noxious national legislation (Obamacare). So, Owens had credentials, youth and energy, and he offered a viable alternative to DeWine. The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide alliance of liberty-oriented groups, and their endorsement arm, The Ohio Tea Party PAC, endorsed Owens’ candidacy. He was the ONLY statewide candidate to receive at least 7/8 approval from their 58 affiliates (at least 51 local organizations). Owens was a tireless campaigner, traveling all over the state to many venues and winning adherents.

In 2010 for the first time in 76 years, a minor party had a full slate of statewide candidates. The Libertarian Party of Ohio had candidates for every major office including Marc Allyn Feldman, their Attorney General hopeful. Clearly, Feldman’s candidacy would have some impact on Owens’ Constitution Party candidacy, but the key Ohio Tea Party PAC endorsement and the general Tea Party organizations’ disillusionment with DeWine’s nomination could, nevertheless, yield a significant vote total for Owens. Apparently, Tea Party endorsements did not translate into votes.

Three of the Libertarian candidates for statewide office garnered more than 177 thousand votes each suggesting that a base of around 175 thousand for statewide LPO challengers. In the Attorney General race, however, Feldman’s 104,554 tally lagged considerably behind his party mates. Owens’ presence in the race coupled with Feldman’s inability to wage an aggressive campaign were the two most instrumental factors in Feldman’s final number. So, did the Tea Party activists propel Owens into contention? Did they overcome the 100 thousand plus votes that Feldman siphoned from Owens’ potential? Did the Tea Party faithful soundly reject the re-cycled Mike DeWine? No, no, no.

They did not deliver. They crawled back upon their favored RINO and rode him once again. Same old, same old. Fervor and endorsements did not deliver votes. Owens’ final total was slightly more than 127 thousand votes while DeWine had nearly one million seven hundred eighty-three thousand (1,782,821).

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