Tea Party vs. GOP Battle Shaping Up for 2016

Tea Party vs. GOP Battle Shaping Up for 2016

The conservative base’s opposition to President Barack Obama and belief that government does more harm than good may embolden Republican Senators–like Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY)–to stake out more conservative positions as they think about potential 2016 presidential runs. 

Meanwhile, Republican governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker–and former governors like Florida’s Jeb Bush–may try to highlight their achievements while in office and potentially run as problem-solving executives who may not be as ideologically pure as conservatives who want to use the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare. 

Christie and Paul, for instance, have already sparred over the National Security Agency’s spying programs, with Christie invoking the 9/11 attacks to accuse Paul’s libertarianism of being “dangerous” for national security. Paul countered and labeled Christie as a “big government” Republican known for profligate spending, citing Christie’s embrace of the pork-laden Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill. 

According a recent Pew Research poll, “given the choice between a more moderate course and a more conservative one, 54 percent choose a more conservative one, while 41 percent choose moderation.”

Speaking to Republicans in New Hampshire on Friday, Cruz emphasized that conservatives win elections not when they moderate, but when “we effectively articulate what it is we believe.” On the other hand, Cruz argued that “liberals win when they effectively obfuscated what they believe” because “their policies do not work.”

As CBS notes, two polls found that Republicans who wanted lawmakers to “stick to positions” were “almost twice as likely as other Republicans to be tea party backers, three times more likely to call themselves ‘very’ conservative” and older. These Tea Party voters, CBS acknowledges, turn out in “primaries and have to be reckoned with.”

In the Senate, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), and Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) all have primary challengers. 

And after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) became the face of comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate by joining the Gang of Eight and owning the immigration bill that the Congressional Budget Office found would lower the wages of working class Americans, his approval rating among Republicans and conservatives subsequently plummeted, which may explain why he has been relatively silent about the issue since the bill passed the Senate at the end of June. 

Many believe Rubio joined the Gang of Eight to back comprehensive immigration reform because he wanted to tout a significant legislative accomplishment for a potential 2016 run. As CBS notes, though, “when voters believe government can’t help things, or that the way to progress is first by reducing it, then enacting legislation or even continuing funding isn’t an achievement.”