Maybe it’s just sour grapes, but sure seems like a lot of Republicans are hating on the tea party these days. Spurned GOPers ousted in primaries have been the most vocal, but even candidates who tried to court the tea party are criticizing the approach of the populist movement.
Whether it’s because they feel liberated (or because, as some tea partiers have suggested, maybe they are liberals at heart), here’s TPM’s roundup of the Top Five Republicans who have spoken ill of the movement in recent weeks.
1. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT)
Considered a conservative by all political measures, Bennett was unseated as a “moderate” by Utah tea party activists and the uber-conservative Club for Growth this summer. Since losing his seat, Bennett has held nothing back.
In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Bennett said tea partiers are actually helping Democrats, given their support of novice candidates like Sharron Angle who might blow chances at unseating the party in power.
“With the tea party creating the mischief that it is in Colorado, we may not win that seat. My sources in Nevada say with Sharon Angle there’s no way Harry Reid loses in Nevada,” Bennett said. He also said thanks to Rand Paul’s candidacy, “that’s a seat we could lose.”
“That’s my concern, that at the moment there is not a cohesive Republican strategy of this is what we’re going to do. And certainly among the tea party types there’s clearly no strategy of this is what we’re going to do,” he said.
2. Robert Hurt (R-VA)
The GOP nominee in Virginia’s 5th Congressional district, state Sen. Robert Hurt, managed to topple several Republicans in a competitive primary last month. Tea partiers and others in the district fought his candidacy in part because he supported a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004 under then-Gov. Mark Warner (D).
Hurt spokesman Chris LaCivita criticized the tea party in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, saying: “With this group, if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, you think you can be a member of Congress.”
This is, of course, the same local tea party in the central and Southside Virginia district that targeted freshman Rep. Tom Perriello with plans to hang him in effigy last fall. (It was called off following bad publicity.)
3. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Graham, who is often courted by the White House as a bipartisan deal maker on foreign policy, judicial nominees, climate change and immigration, isn’t even up for reelection until 2012. So it’s a little strange he felt compelled to tell the New York Times that he thinks the tea party is a passing fad.
“The problem with the Tea Party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country. It will die out,” he said.
Graham also said he challenged a group of Tea Partiers in a meeting: “‘What do you want to do? You take back your country — and do what with it?’…Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.”
4. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC)
Inglis is another GOPer on his way out the door, having lost a runoff election in a Republican primary this month by double digits. And, as he leaves, he’s letting loose on the tea party and even his own party’s leadership team.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Inglis suggested “that tea party favorites such as former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and right-wing talk show hosts like Glenn Beck are the culprits” of “demagoguery” that threatens the Republican party long term.
Inglis didn’t directly name the tea party movement, but challenged one of the key talking points tea partiers picked up from Palin during the health care debate.
“There were no death panels in the bill … and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It’s not leadership. It’s demagoguery.”
On C-Span yesterday, Inglis complained about GOP leaders Minority Leader John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor. Via Think Progress:
“I think that to some extent we’re getting what we deserve,” with Boehner and Cantor leading the Party, Inglis said, adding, “We have basically decided to stir up a base, and that’s a bad decision for the country.”
Later in the segment, Inglis criticized those on the right who blamed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for causing the 2008 financial crisis:
INGLIS: What I’m supposed to do as a Republican is just echo back to you Anne that yes, CRA was the cause of the financial meltdown in October of 2008. And if I said that to you I’d be clearly wrong because if you think about it, CRA had been around for decades. So how could it be that it caused the problem suddenly in October of 2008? … So therefore we can just establish it as a scapegoat. Democrats like it and we can of course put the racial hue on that and that makes it even more powerful. But if we do that, we go further away from the solution, the solution is to deal with those fundamental things, not pick up on scapegoats and run with it.
5. Scott Rigell (R-VA)
Rigell is the GOP nominee to challenge freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA) this fall in
In Virginia’s 2nd Congressional district.
The local tea party backed the GOP primary’s other candidates over Rigell, a car dealer who donated to President Obama and other Democrats in recent years. The tea party now says they won’t get involved in the general election.
Listen to a recent speech where Rigell compared his primary race with boot camp. “The primary lasted 11 months, boot camp only lasted three months,” he says in the below clip, obtained by TPM.
Bonus: Democrats with tea party love
In a few up-is-down sorts of moves, a local tea party in Idaho endorsed Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID) for reelection over a Republican challenger, and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has highlighted his tea party-ish support, too.
Late Update: Reader PH flags a recent Michael Gerson column where he criticizes the tea party and particularly Angle in Nevada. Gerson, a former Bush White House speechwriter, concludes that “[T]he Republican Party rides a massive wave toward a rocky shore.”