BY NICO COLOMBANT – The conservative, grassroots, Tea Party movement, which has emerged over the past two years in American politics, has scored big wins for the Republican Party in U.S. congressional and gubernatorial races.
The first Tea Party favorite to be declared a winner Tuesday was Rand Paul, who emerged victorious as a Republican Senator-elect for the southern state of Kentucky.
Paul, a first-time candidate, said what he called a “tea party tidal wave” was coming down on Washington with a message when new legislators take their seats in January. “It is a message that I will carry with me on day one. It is a message of fiscal sanity, it is a message of limited constitutional government and balanced budgets,” he said.
The Tea Party movement developed in earnest last year following an outcry against big government, taxes and President Barack Obama’s health care reform.
Paul, an eye doctor, defeated Kentucky’s attorney general, Democrat Jack Conway.
In his victory speech, Paul made clear where he stands on policies to reduce nearly 10 percent U.S. unemployment. “Government does not create jobs. Individual entrepreneurs, business men and women create jobs, but not the government,” he said.
Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, is another Tea Party favorite who will be a new senator. He easily won a three way race in the southern state of Florida, which has been hit hard by high unemployment and a crumbling housing market.
In his victory speech, Rubio said he believes America’s new legislators will play a crucial role in determining the country’s history. “It is about whether we are going to be the first generation of Americans to leave our children worse off than ourselves or the next generation that will allow them to inherit what they deserve,” he said.
Rubio said both the Democrats of President Barack Obama and his own Republican Party are to blame for the direction the United States has been going.
Indiana Republicans, state representative Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young, a Marine veteran, were among the Tea Party winners in the House.
Nikki Haley, who received campaign help from another Tea Party favorite, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, won the South Carolina governor’s race.
But there were Tea Party losers as well. Sharron Angle was trying to unseat Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the western state of Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell lost a Senate race in Delaware. Both received Palin’s support.
Pollster John Zogby, of Zogby International, says polls his organization conducted during Tuesday’s election indicated between 27 and 32 percent of voters overall identified with the Tea Party.
He also answered a question about the variety of so-called Tea Party candidates within Republican ranks. “There are those who became candidates because of the Tea Party, there are those that the Tea Party adopted, and then there are those who sat down and did the calculations and said, ‘I had better drink some tea right away,'” he said.
The Tea Party movement derives its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when colonists destroyed British tea to protest taxes that were being imposed.
House of Representatives
Note: Vertical line represents number needed for majority (218).
Note: Vertical line represents number needed for majority (51).