Some have compared the Tea Party to the Ross Perot phenomenon during the 1992 presidential election, but the difference is the Perot movement actually took votes from Republicans and the Tea Party brings more votes. Both movements represent a backlash against the party establishments, but differ significantly in their results. The question has been posed as to what the Republican establishment will do with Tea Party candidates who aren't willing to toe the party line? What will Tea Party candidates do if the GOP doesn't trend more toward the movement's agenda of balanced budgets and constitutional government? Good questions both, yet it must be said that regardless of what the future holds, the Tea Party is already shaping the national debate and directing the political narrative. The Republican caucus is already talking about our debt more than they used to. Republicans are already beginning to understand that something must be done about spending. You now hear repeatedly from candidates across the country—some sincere, some not—that it is a "spending problem, not a revenue problem." I've had Republican politicians from Kentucky and across the country come up to me and say, "We're not going to mess things up again!" They claim that if the GOP gains control again, they're not going to waste their electoral victory this time. Do they mean it? It would be easy to say "time will tell," but right now time is not a luxury. Before the midterm election, the Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that many establishment Republicans were cheering the Tea Party for political expediency during the elections but were prepared to compromise with the Democrats once in of?ce. This will not do. We've been down this road before and every Republican who has claimed in the past that their particular spending bill or surrender of conservative principles was done with good intentions, must be sharply reminded how the path to hell was paved. My approach to politics is that you simply stand up for what you believe in. This should be any serious conservative's starting point. If your first impulse is to compromise, and Obama and the Democrats are far to the Left, but you start in the middle, then you'll end up somewhere between the middle and the Left. Hasn't this been the Republican Party's problem for too long and precisely the reason we now have a Tea Party?
Speaking at a Tea Party event in Paducah, Kentucky, during the campaign, I asked the crowd, "Is anyone here from the Tea Party?" The thunderous applause could have come from any number of Tea Parties, on any given day, held regularly across the country. I told the crowd, "I think we're going to have a Tea Party tidal wave...There is a day of reckoning coming, we must grab hold of our government again, and not let them spend us into oblivion." The crowd cheered and as I looked out across the audience, I could see what the establishment politicians and mainstream pundits still can't see or simply don't care to—everyday Americans, busy working jobs just to pay the bills and put food on the table, who are genuinely worried about their country's future. A Rasmussen poll released that same day showed that 81 percent of Americans thought the country was headed in the wrong direction. Such numbers are not insignificant and reflect the mood that empowers and gives influence to the Tea Party, no matter how much the mainstream media tries to downplay it.
In the weeks and months to come after announcing my candidacy for US Senate, the Tea Party's strength would be tested, stringently, strategically and on multiple levels. Would the millions of Americans clamoring for substantive "change" - not of the Obama variety and certainly not of the recent Republican brand of George W. Bush - have voices loud enough and enduring enough to carry an election with national implications?