On PBS’s “NewsHour” on Friday, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted a trend indicating change in the Tea Party. He pointed to the academic credentials of U.S. Senate hopefuls Ben Sasse and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and the shift away from nominating what he referred to as Fox News commentators.
Partial transcript as follows:
JUDY WOODRUFF, anchor PBS “NewsHour”: So, just in a few minutes left, the Tea Party, David, they won one of these Senate primaries in this midterm election season, but they don’t seem to be as strong as in the past. Whatever you want to call it, the mainstream, the establishment of the Republican Party seems to be doing better. What’s going on?
BROOKS: Yes, I think in somewhat — especially in this case in Nebraska this week, the lines were very muddy between who was establishment and who was Tea Party. The Tea Party candidate who won, Sasse, he’s a Yale Ph.D. And the other, Tom Cotton, has a Harvard Law degree.
MARK SHIELDS, Creators Syndicate columnist: Yes.
BROOKS: Mike Needham, who runs the Heritage Fund — Heritage Action, he’s from new — so these are not classic outsiders, I would say. But I do think the party has become more nervous of losing seats. The voters — it’s mostly — it’s less over ideology and more over approach. It’s can you come into Washington and do politics, do governance, as opposed to being sort of a Fox News commentator when you get here?
And so I do think the side of the party that says, you know, let’s pass legislation, and they’re plenty conservative, but they tend to have the momentum right now. And I think the government shutdown that Ted Cruz led was a major turning point, which is not to say that his campaign won’t be formidable when he runs for president.
SHIELDS: Ted Cruz and Mike Lee were staunch supporters of Ben Sasse out in Nebraska winner, the winner. And their message was, we need reinforcement to fight the entrenched leadership here in Washington. Sasse, to his credit, kind of — had a foot in each camp.
WOODRUFF: This is in Nebraska, the winner.
SHIELDS: In Nebraska. And he did it quite adroitly. I think the Tea Party had its most important victory, and we can see it every day, and that was in Kentucky. Mitch McConnell went hat in hand and asked Rand Paul for his endorsement, and so to avoid any trouble. And Rand Paul, who is now a national figure and a major leader of his party, endorsed Mitch McConnell, and probably thereby secured the fact that McConnell would be renominated.
But that’s how important the Tea Party is, that Mitch McConnell, who opposed him in 2010, when he ran, is now his supplicant, in his debt.
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