Tuesday's victory marked the first time in the general election season that the tea party movement and the RNC united behind a singular effort. The past few years have seen a contentious relationship between the pair, punctuated by periods of all-out war, like in the case of the senatorial primaries in Indiana, Texas, and Utah of the past few months. Is this union a brief respite or a sign of things to come for fall? Is the rift on the right healing?
As he took the stage in front of 4,000 patriots last Saturday in Racine County, Wisconsin, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus belted out thanksgiving: "Thank God for the tea party!" While Priebus is largely credited with laying the groundwork for a strong Republican network in the state that helped boost the chances of recall incumbents, the grassroots movement is what made the race go national. While all the attention was given to Governor Walker, his second in command, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was in the throes of battle. Underfunded, underexposed with zero name-recognition beyond state borders, there was concern that big labor would pick off the Governor's closest ally on June 5th. Because her race epitomized the struggle between the tea party and the Democrat machine, Kleefisch began appearing twice a week on my show, on this site, on Michelle Malkin's site; grassroots citizen journalists across the country documented events around the state and pushed stories from the trenches to legacy media, who largely ignored it until they couldn't. Tea partiers organized and spend weekends going door-to-door.
"I got asked, why haven't you had a rally in so long?" recalled one Wisconsin tea partier during a visit to Madison a couple of months ago. "I said, 'because we're spending every weekend knocking on doors. I traded my sign for a clipboard.'" Grassroots operated independently from the state GOP who no doubt watched the efforts of tea partiers with eager interest.
Last night on CNN Wolf "Blitz" Blitzer asked me whether or not it was of any real consequence that President Obama didn't campaign in Wisconsin on behalf of the Democrats.
"Mitt Romney didn't, either," Wolf noted.
"True," I'd said, "but then again, the RNC Chair wasn't on national television the Sunday before discussing how this race was a test run for their efforts in November."
Still, it would have been nice to see Romney in Wisconsin, especially as it was an expected victory. It would have showed some brass and also made up some lost time with grassroots. A press conference in front of Solyndra is great, but this would have been even better -- it would have also helped expedite the unification against Obama in November.
Will the tea party and RNC unite soon? There are still a couple of primary battles to fight, but eventually, yes. Even if certain candidates refrain from reaching out, due either to political concerns or outright disdain, the right as a whole will arrive at the moment when the choice is unity or peril. The speed won't be decided by grassroots.