In a Q&A hosted by the Washington Post last week, Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks— the multimillion dollar Dick Armey advocacy group that fueled the Tea Party movement– said GOP Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck lost his midterm bid because social issues came into play. That’s what a lot of people are saying. It’s pretty much what Buck and Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams said, too. It’s a response that suggests the power and the weakness of FreedomWorks politics.
From the Post Q&A:
Q: Ken Buck, certainly a Tea Party candidate, had a hard time in Colorado. Despite strong financial support, he seemed to stumble over social issues like abortion… Buck didn’t manage to catch the wave because Colorado is a fairly purple state and Buck/Tea Party misread the electorate.
A: The strength of the movement is the focus on fiscal issues, which tend to be a uniting factor among a vast majority of Americans, especially given the current economic climate. Social issues have distracted and proven divisive in close races – like Ken Buck in Colorado.
Confronted in the general election campaign with his conservative positions on reproductive rights and homosexuality, Buck pushed back repeatedly by saying that over long months on the stump he had found that voters weren’t interested in social issues.
Buck lost because voters are interested in social issues and saw that his fiscal policy came freighted with hard-right social stands. Voters are concerned with the nation’s budget deficit but if the GOP solution to lowering it means giving up access to the pill and fertility treatments and hope for gay equality, Democratic approaches take on a new shine.
FreedomWorks is laboring to keep the Tea Party message focused on its low-tax-low-regulation corporate agenda and that agenda essentially won out on Tuesday. New GOP House Speaker John Boehner said he has been humbled by the Tea Party movement and that he will listen to the voters.
What is certain is that Boehner will fight the FreedomWorks battle for insurance companies against “Obamacare” as adamantly as Christian right leader Ralph Reed and anti-abortion Americans United for Life and anti-illegal immigration groups around the states will keep pulling at the wheel, steering the new Republican leaders away from the Tea Party’s “focus on fiscal issues.”
Planting his flag, Reed said this week that it was the vast numbers of evangelical voters who identify as tea partiers that fueled the GOP victories.
Kibbe may or may not believe that or want to publicly concede to it but he has made clear what he thinks about it. Minnesota hard-right Christian Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is loved by the Tea Party but she is not loved by the vast majority of American voters or even the vast majority of Republicans. The Christian right movement is a force of the past. It’s not a recession winner. Its concerns will dissipate the Tea Party movement and alienate voters for 2012.