Tea Party Fail in New Hampshire?

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The rolling boil that set the tea kettle steaming last year might have helped entice challengers into the race. Would Binnie and Bender have run without first being convinced that there was a mass movement out there that would support them? Maybe not. Lamontagne likely would have run regardless.

It may be that the Tea Party’s notoriety hurt it in New Hampshire, where one U.S. Senate seat and both House seats were up for grabs. If the existence of a widespread anti-establishment movement convinced challengers to enter these races, then the Tea Party helped nominate three establishment candidates.

In all three primaries, the establishment candidate won when multiple outsider candidates split the anti-establishment votes. Ayotte squeaked out a victory yesterday, former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta narrowly beat business executives Rich Ashooh , Sean Mahoney and Bob Bestani, and former six-term Rep. Charlie Bass, the stereotypical New England moderate Republican, beat out former columnist and radio talk show host Jennifer Horn and former state Rep. Bob Giuda. All the challengers campaigned as conservative, anti-Washington outsiders. With no Tea Party organization driving the vote to a single insurgent, the challengers divided the anti-establishment vote among themselves, and they all lost.

By contrast, the primaries in Washington and New York featured one establishment candidate and one outsider. The Tea Party, as much as one can call it a single entity, was able to rally around a single candidate and carry that candidate to victory.

New Hampshire, which encourages average citizens to run for office by charging filing fees of only $50 for the U.S. House and $100 for Senate, is accustomed to seeing big, multi-candidate primaries. What happened Tuesday is not unusual here. In 2002, long before the Tea Party came into being, millionaire businessman Craig Benson won a crowded GOP primary despite having no political experience, and went on to become governor. That same year, the Republican primary in the First Congressional District had so many conservatives running that moderate state Sen. Jeb Bradley was able to sail past all of them to win the nomination and eventually the House seat.

So it might not have been the Tea Party that encouraged so many challengers to enter the GOP field this year. But I suspect it was. The message of every one of the outsiders was tailored so specifically to Tea Party voters, and so many quality candidates entered the races, that it would be surprising if the Tea Party’s 2009 successes didn’t play a role in convincing a lot of these candidates that they’d have a shot this year. And if that were the case, then the Tea Party became a victim of its own success in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His Twitter ID is Drewhampshire.

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  • http://www.myspace/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    The tea party people do not understand one fact if you get big in the system you become a target of the big boys and become the bitch of the system and deals are made.

    • Ron

      We aint shakin….Bring it on, We will take the garbage to the can where it belongs. One thing You don't understand is we are going to throw the BIG BOYS out…. America is pissed off and we will just get stronger……

  • http://www.myspace/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    send e mail will stop any posts

  • http://www.myspace/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    the tea party people are being used by others

  • USMCSniper

    Stio referring to the tea party movement as a party. Remember, anuyone can vote in an primary election in New Hampshire.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    There is a bit of tortured logic to this article. The truth is much simpler. It was the Palin factor. Her endorsement of the "establishment" candidate was the difference. And I say so as no great fan of Sarah Palin.

    • Glenmoron

      Totally agree. If a true conservative gets elected because they caused a split on the vote, who cares? The republican will have to live up to his own hype or he's a one term politician. And he knows it!

  • Tom

    So what is your point?? The Tea Party is alive and well nation-wide, and has really rattled quite a few cages this week. I think it's great that the Establishment is getting its' bell rung (on both sides).

  • Jack Zeller

    Very few republican and independent voters in New Hampshire thought of either of these candidates as teaparty candidates. What they were torn about, was whether to trust an untested candidate to shake things up in Washington, or fall back on a conservative with her feet solidly on the ground. They chose the latter.

  • Mark Montgomery

    The future of the "tea party" and the GOP is indeed bleak. Look at the demographics: both groups are mostly elderly, white, rich, malcontent republicans who are so old they will die soon. They represent only 3% of the people, the richest ones. The REAL future of this country is multicultural, under 25 years old, mostly brown, middle class and Democratic. C'mon tea partiers, hurry up and die. Mark Montgomery boboberg@nyc.rr.com

    • carol

      Have you been to a Tea Party lately a very different picture than the one you paint

    • tagalog

      If you disagree with Carol, just take a look at the photos of the anti-mosque demonstrators in one of the articles posted on this site today.

    • Ron

      What planet are you from ? with your weak game….. are you one of those sniveling demo's? Why are you such a kiss -ss? Im so sick of hearing Your same old worn out DRIBBLE, Ill bet You like like that sell out obummer… he didnt do a damn thing for the black folks, the Banks own him, I can see you know the demos are done…..

    • Jim Turner

      You will have to wait a long time for me to Die I am only 38

  • tanstaafl

    Most Republicans in New England find social conservatism a little off-putting. After all, "good fences make good neighbors".

  • GadsdenGurl

    I would like to advise this website to please remove the comment about 'tea party backed' candidate. The tea party in NH cannot legally endorse a candidate and thus this comment could get them into trouble.

    Who can I write to and have it removed?

  • GadsdenGurl

    I know Kelly and she's a moderate with women's issues.. She is NOT pro-life.

  • USMCSniper

    The Republican party is like the old conservative Democrats and needs restructering back to a traditional philosphy with a fairly strong conservative tone rather than being run by gutless RINOs who think like losers and the country club elitists that have a condescending contempt for the American people. The Democrats are anti-traditionalists who are bought and paid for by George Soros and all the one world government advocates.

  • fmd36NH

    One again..too many candidates.NH Republicans tend to shoot themselves in the foot. Sunnunu seems to have a firm lock on NH Republican party. Voted for Ovide as I agreed with everything I heard him say. Ayotte has always been too close with (D) Gov. Lynch. She better clear up her alledged pro-life status. Prochoice doesn't mean prolife.

  • http://www.shugartpoliticalaction.shugartmedia.com/index.html Tar_n_Feathers

    Using the term "Tea Party" as some sure-fire marketing brand name will prove to be in the long run very poor strategy. There's such a thing as the inherent quality of the candidate regardless of what label gets stamped on. TP support can be a good thing, but it's not the final word on who's in and who's out.

  • pbeaird

    None of them were Tea Party candidates.

    Given that we are into the first stage of economic dictatorship under Obama, a path prepared for his actions by both Parties, the pro-freedom goal is clear. It stands to reason that, if this government does far more than the 18 authorizations given to it in Article I of the US Constitution, because of laws that empower it to do more, then the only way to get this government back under its original Constitutional limits is to REPEAL ALL of the pro-socialist legislation of the past 120 years.

  • pbeaird

    A Tea Party, or pro-freedom, candidate for national ofice is one who exclusively dedicates his legislative career to the sole task of identifying and repealing (or phasing out) those laws. There can be no other task as important, in this generation, than getting this government back under its original Constitutional limits. And, no one has identified another way to accomplish that goal than Reform by Repeal.

    Until you hear Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, or Sharon Angle say this, she nor they are Tea Party spokesman, no matter how loveable she is.

  • pbeaird

    For details about the Tea Party, pro-freedom distinctives,, go to the Discussions tab of almost any Tea Party site on Facebook and read "How to Recognize a Pro-freedom Candidate", "Tea Party Questions for Political Candidates", and "Tea Party Declaration of Independence from Political Party Loyalties".

  • Open_Flame

    The Tea Party movement isn't just about getting this or that candidate elected. It's mainly about dragging the Republican party, kicking and screaming, back to conservatism.

    Remember, everyone is a conservative during election years. The Republicans all pretend they're Reagan and the Dems all swear that they're mostly conservative with some center-left leanings. Then the second the election is over, the Dems revert to socialism and the Reps go along for the ride and start the occasional pillow fight over some tiny, inconsequential tax cut.

    The deal with the Tea Parties is shift this dynamic. Let's stay focused.

  • http://www.myspace/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    The tea party people are being used for the same reasons as many others are being used not by parties but for the total control of all people, To see what the USA Will look like in 20 years all you got to do is just look at Mexico. the big money people are using you all and both political parties want this control over all things in your life, the tea party are just tools to a end game. if you really wanted to make THIS nation of freedom really work right; I would be president and the first thing i would do is to remove 40 million people at once and rebuild the MILITARY, and you don't want to know what i would do to drug dealers and gangs In fact most would hate me . but that will never happen and most people do not understand what the future holds for that stupid person and his or her life.

    • mamapajamas

      Uh… we just came off of several weeks where the Conventional Wisdom was that the Republican Party had already "taken over" the TEA Parties.

      Big surprise… GOP-favored candidates LOST too many of the primaries for that to be true.

      No, we are groups (and not just one, but many) who are genuinely grassroots. We just told the elitists in the Republican party and the Democrat party that they are the ones out of tough. They laugh and sneer at us for being "uneducated rubes"… and THEY are the ones who aren't smart enough to read the freakin' job description: The government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

      We The People have had it and are taking over.

      • mamapajamas

        correction: "out of tough"="out of touch".

      • http://www.myspace.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

        I hope you are right, if what i see most people would jump off a building.

  • Phil Byler

    Why all the fuss? Kelly Ayotte is a very good, strong candidate who won the GOP primary fair and square. Now, may she win the general election in November and be New Hampshire's new U.S. Senator next year.

  • coyote3

    I don't know what will happen, and neither do you. However, I can say that I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime. What is so "fringe" about not giving the federal government power that is not delegated by the constitution. "That" is the law of the land. Now, how many of these people will ultimately follow that direction? We don't know that either. What we do know is that the current crop of politicians, particulary on the federal level, both Republican and Democrat, have been advancing illegal legislation for decades, so it is a pretty good bet they would continue to operate illegally.

  • crypticguise

    It sounds like Kelly Ayotte is an excellent Conservative Republican Candidate and once again Sarah Palin's support made a difference.

    Liberals continue to poo-poo Sarah as she helps Conservative Republican candidates all over the country kick their butts.

  • Lori

    Stop It.

  • Me_Me

    Sarah has great instincts.