Hear that whoosh of air? That’s the sound of the Tea Party movement breathing a collective sigh of relief that Gov. Scott Walker pulled this baby out. Whatever the many and varied implications of Tuesday’s recall vote in Wisconsin, Tea Partiers needed this win to prove—to themselves perhaps most of all—that they still matter.
Around lunchtime Tuesday, a press release went out inviting reporters to interview Tea Party Patriot cofounder Jenny Beth Martin about the “massive grassroots campaign their organization has completed, and what the results will mean for 2012 elections and the rest of the country.”
The email went on to boast: “More than 150 Tea Party Patriots volunteers on the ground knocked on 15,000 voter doors for the past several weeks and distributed nearly 150,000 pieces of literature, while volunteers across the country placed more than 37,000 calls to Wisconsin voters urging them to vote to defend the democratic process, reject Washington special interests and vote for fiscal responsibility.”
Message to the political world: Tea Party ground troops are what tipped things Walker’s way. It was definitely, definitely not the fact that pro-Walker forces, led by far less grassroots, not-at-all-blue-collar largely out-of-state donors that overwhelmed the Democratic opposition by around $30 million.
These are fraught times for the Tea Party. Much of the movement loathed Mitt Romney. Now they’re stuck with him. Asked about such an outcome during the primary season, most Tea Party folks I talked with had two responses: (1) They refused to acknowledge the very possibility that Romney would wind up the nominee; and (2) they stressed that, in the event of such an electoral apocalypse, the movement would need to keep its morale up by focusing on state and local races.
Scott Walker’s survival offers one such down-ticket shot of morale. And Tea Partiers had no intention of letting the moment slip by without trying to grab a bit of the glory for themselves.