I imagine Jon Huntsman looked at today’s New York Times and said, “With friends like these….” The paper carries a story titled “Republicans Seeking Election Remain Unsure About Embracing Tea Party,” and tantalizingly promises that evidence of this “is everywhere.”
But the article so comically underdelivers on this as to have the opposite effect: it makes clear just how influential the Tea Party is. The reporter provides exactly three examples in the entire article of Republicans running for election who are wary of the conservative Tea Party voters: Huntsman and Senators Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar. The story, meanwhile, is framed by the only source quoted in the first half of the story: Whit Ayres, who is Huntsman’s pollster but whose association with the Huntsman campaign is only disclosed much later in the article, when he refers to Huntsman as a “real leader.”
The case of Hatch severely undermines the premise as well, because Hatch (as the article acknowledges), facing a primary challenge from his right, voted no on the debt ceiling deal in order to bring him more into line with the Tea Party’s stance on the issue.
The example of Lugar is just plain puzzling. He voted in favor of the debt ceiling bill, calling it a “victory for conservative fiscal responsibility.” According to the Times, Lugar “is betting — or maybe, hoping — that the Tea Party will agree.”
Will agree? After the Tea Party stood firm against each compromise until one emerged that seemed to favor the GOP–and even then remained mostly opposed to raising the debt limit–are we still attempting to discern how they feel about the bill? The Tea Party has been almost universally recognized as the victor here, having completely changed the debate about spending in Washington and driving the legislation despite only making up a fraction of the Republicans in Congress and despite the GOP controlling only the House.
Lugar and Huntsman are both dreaming. Lugar’s yes vote will not win the Tea Party over, however he chooses to spin it. And Huntsman’s campaign continues to think its candidate can win the Republican nomination with its only noticeable support coming from the nation’s liberal newspapers. Good luck with that.