Mike Lee doesn’t grab the headlines like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul but he is a major figure in the Tea Party. If for no other reason than his victory over then-incumbent Senator Bob Bennett was a sign of their growing influence in the party. Bennett had been in the Senate for 18 years and was part of a very powerful family in Utah, so for anyone to defeat him was a big shock.
Now three years later the Washington Post reports some Utah business leaders and Republican party figures have soured on Lee and his more confrontational approach. Is this the sign of a backlash in the GOP against the Tea Party?
The key point from the article is that Lee’s opponents are trying to change the nomination process. If they can get the Utah to move away from a convention system for picking nominees to a primary this could make Lee vulnerable. He won the GOP nomination in a convention and most people think if it had been a primary instead Bennett would still be in the Senate.
Like many things in politics this may come down to who can write the rules. If it stays a convention Lee should be fine but if it goes to a primary the Tea Party favorite may have a problem.
On May 20, 2014 we’re going to learn who really runs the GOP.
That is the day of the U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin. This should be a cake walk for McConnell. He was represented the state for 30 years, is the GOP’s Senate Minority Leader, and has the support of Tea Party favorite Rand Paul.
However, since the shutdown ended McConnell has been taking a great deal of heat from the right wing of the party. Recently Jim DeMint’s group the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed McConnell’s challenger, Matt Bevin. Also with groups like FreedomWorks talking about repopulating the GOP you get the feeling they might jump into this fight as well.
As I have said before IF Bevin can knock off McConnell it will be the ultimate sign the Tea Party has taken over the GOP. This is not an old moderate like Mike Castle or Dick Lugar, or someone Bob Bennett who just wasn’t paying attention. This is the leader of the GOP in the Senate and one of the craftiest operators in all of American politics. To defeat him would tell every Republican it is time to get in line or get out.
I get the feeling McConnell must have some dirt on Bevin that he is waiting for the right time to use. Don’t be surprised if all of the stops are pulled out in this one.
It is still early but to get folks in the mood here’s a little Thunderdome:
Don’t be surprised if Lamar! Alexander gets a primary in 2014. You might be thinking so what. After all, Alexander is an institution in Tennessee politics. He is a former two-term governor and in his second term in the U.S. Senate.
Ok, all that is true. But Utah Senator Bob Bennett was a 3 term incumbent with a solid conservative record and he got beat in a primary. So anyone can be vulnerable in today’s GOP if they are perceived as not toeing the line. Considering Lamar! just voted for the immigration reform package I think the odds of his getting a primary just shot up.
What does this mean for 2016? It gives people a chance to sure up their bona fides. You can bet Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will be there campaigning for Lamar!’s opponent (especially if it’s WWE Wrestler Glenn Jacobs, aka Kane, run). For Rubio this also presents an opportunity to sure up establishment support by or try to get his Tea Party supporters back by campaigning against Lamar!
You can bet Scott Walker and Chris Christie will stay out of it.