Will the Tea Party - the reactionary anti-spending movement that spawned figures like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul - be willing to accept blue and purple state Republicans who have a shot at winning elections?
In Ohio, Tea Party figures want that answer to be a resounding NO.
As Joe Hallet reported this morning for the Columbus Dispatch, long frustrated conservative activists are exploring forming a new party.
Hallet quotes Seth Morgan of Americans for Prosperity as being interested in a fairly wide range of paths, from "a third party, to an insurrection (within the Republican Party) and everything in between.”
These individuals are upset, as far right groups naturally would be, about Republican Governor John Kasich's efforts to pass an expansion of Medicaid, the new party director's friendly relations with gay rights groups, and the passage of a fracking tax.
But while the Tea Partiers were ticked off, something quite magical happened: the Governor became far more popular. According to the Quinnipiac Poll, Kasich's approval rating hit 53% in April, and his reelection chances in 2014, which were laughable even a couple years back, are suddenly looking pretty good. This is a state Barack Obama won by over 100,000 votes in November (hint: not red), and it's a place where a Republican will have to at least try to work with the center and left to accomplish legislation and win reelection.
And how strong is that Tea Party? What's their final straw? Hallet:
Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party who lost his bid for the Ohio GOP chairmanship by a 48-7 vote of the party’s state central committee, met on Saturday with Don Shrader, chairman of the Constitution Party of Ohio, to explore uniting in a party committed more to principles than winning elections.
My best to those who want to feel good about how incredibly principled they are, but most Republicans want a party that actually wants to pass legislation and make our country stronger.
To pass legislation, you have to win elections. To win elections, you have to field candidates who have a shot in hell of appealing to the voters in their specific field. And to find those candidates, you have to be willing to compromise on certain issues.
Ohio is not Kentucky. Rob Portman won't win elections by being a Rand Paul, or Ted Cruz, or Mike Lee, and John Kasich certainly won't be reelected by imitating Rick Scott.
If the Tea Partiers of Ohio really want to make Ohio a more conservative place, they should remember those realities. But, if as I suspect, they're more interested in self-aggrandizing and feel-goodery, by all means, I hope they form their own party.
I just hope they remember it's totally their fault when Democrats take back Ohio.