Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.) facing a primary contest from the right in his reelection bid said past Tea Party-backed challenges had “killed off” Republican efforts to take the Senate in the past and could undermine a GOP majority again in 2012.
“A Republican majority in the Senate is very important, and Republicans who are running for reelection ought to be supported by people who want to see that majority,” Lugar said in an interview which aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I think the majority of Tea Party people understand that too,” he added.
Lugar who is facing a tough primary challenge from Tea Party-backed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) said he was the best GOP option to win the seat and that past attempts by grassroots groups to install candidates they found more conservative had backfired.
“If I was not the nominee it might be lost,” he said of his seat. “Republicans lost the seats before in Nevada and New Jersey and Colorado where there were people who were claiming they wanted somebody who was more of their Tea Party aspect but they killed off the Republican majority.”
“This is one of the reasons why we have a minority in the Senate right now,” he claimed.
This is one of those zombie lies that keeps popping back up. During the last election cycle (the only one affected by the Tea Party so far) The Republican party gained six seats in the Senate. They needed four more to take control. Not one GOP incumbent lost their seat. (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska won reelection despite losing the primary to a Tea Party candidate.)
The claim that the Tea Party “lost” the Senate is based on the assumption that the GOP would have won four more seats had the establishment candidates won the primaries. But there is little proof that is the case – mostly some pre-primary polls. They might have won one or two – or maybe not.
It could just as easily be argued that without the support and enthusiasm of the Tea Party the Republicans would have won fewer seats and might not have taken control of the House either.
The Tea Party is a conservative movement and I’m a liberal, so why does this matter? Because the establishments of both parties have a vested interest in maintaining power, and neither establishment represents their party’s rank-and-file voters.
The Tea Party originated as an astroturf organization intended to gin-up opposition to Barack Obama. But it quickly morphed into a genuine grass-roots organization as the monster turned on its creators with primary challengers. Suddenly the GOP establishment joined with Democrats in portraying Tea Partiers as lunatics.
Some people think that the Occupiers are the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party. This is not true. OWS has no interest in challenging the Democratic establishment by fielding primary candidates. But if they did they could expect similar treatment.