With Ryan Struyk
It has not been a good week for a lot of tea party candidates across the country.
Several of them have defiantly launched challenges against Republican incumbents, against the will of the GOP establishment. But this week seems to have set a high-water mark for their blunders as well.
At the same time, the conservative outside groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, which have endorsed GOP primary challengers are stepping up their attacks on incumbents, like long-time Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who was caught admitting that he didn’t know what the tea party was.
But with primary contests are rapidly approaching, tea party candidates are running out of time to make the case to Republican voters to ditch the establishment. And these stumbles could start to matter more and more.
Sen. Minority leader Mitch McConnell’s outsider challenger is still answering questions about whether he supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a Wall Street Bailout bill known as TARP, when he was the head of a financial fund.
When the story was first published in Politico, Bevin said that despite the fact that his signature was on a letter of support for TARP, he has always opposed the program.
But the questions haven’t gone away.
Bevin says that he was “required by law” to sign the letter, then he told Kentucky reporters that the signature was a “digital signature.”
Meanwhile, McConnell’s allies, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., used the incident to question Bevin’s credibility on Monday.
And yesterday, Bevin stepped into another controversy, this time about gay marriage.
Asked by conservative radio host Janet Mefferd what he would do to defend “traditional marriage,” Bevin had this say:
“Where do you draw the line even on that?” Bevin asked. “At one point, if it’s alright to have same sex marriages, why not define a marriage–because at the end of the day a lot of it ends up being about taxes and who can visit who in the hospital and there’s other repercussions and things that come with this.”
“So a person may want to define themselves as being married to one of their children so that they could then in fact pass on certain things to that child financially or otherwise,” he continued. “Where do you draw the line?”
Bevin’s campaign insisted that Bevin “sees no comparison between gay marriage and incest.”
McConnell’s former chief of staff Josh Holmes, quickly called out the statement at “the return of Akin-ry” a reference to a failed GOP candidate who ignited controversy with comments about “legitimate rape” in 2012.
— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) February 20, 2014
Mississippi lawyer and tea party candidate Chris McDaniel was having a pretty good week. His opponent, a longtime Republican incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran committed a political faux pas by suggesting that he doesn’t even know what the tea party is.
But it wasn’t long before McDaniel created a storm of his own by suggesting in an interview with Politico that he didn’t know whether he would have voted for a disaster relief bill for Hurricane Katrina, which benefited Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
Before the ink was even dry on that story, McDaniel’s staff reached out to clarify that he would definitely have voted “yes.” But the damage was already done.
By Thursday, McDaniel took to Facebook to further clarify his stance on Katrina aide and slam the “slander” from his critics.
Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman is everywhere on Twitter it seems but he is apparently nowhere to be found on the campaign trail, according to several unflattering news stories published this week.
Stockman’s longshot challenge to Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn is predicated on support from tea party conservatives, and now even that is in question according to a Politico story today suggesting that some of them are fed up with his conspicuous absence on the campaign trail.
On Twitter, however, Stockman has been furiously tweeting about the controversial, and now embattled rocker Ted Nugent and promoting straw poll results that are months old.
NUGE: “Congressman Stockman is a legislative street-fighting man who stands solidly for our sacred Second Amendment.” pic.twitter.com/ixDLMMPAms
— Rep. Steve Stockman (@StockmanSenate) February 21, 2014
But the spate of assertions in the media that his campaign is less serious than his Twitter presence suggests is bound to hurt.
This week, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Cornyn in the GOP primary and panned Stockman’s “clownish campaign.”
There’s more trouble for the Tea Party in North Carolina, where the GOP hopes to oust another vulnerable incumbent, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
Tea party candidate Greg Brannon, who has the endorsements of Sen. Rand Paul and libertarian powerhouse FreedomWorks, took a hit Tuesday when he was convicted of misleading investors in his tech company.
The jury found that Brannon deceived two people to get them to invest in a technology company he co-founded, and now he’ll owe at least $250,000.
Brannon has been polling behind Thom Tillis, the GOP frontrunner and speaker of the North Carolina House, in the race for the nomination that so far features six Republican hopefuls.
Brannon says he’ll appeal the judgment, but the damage may already be done.
“I completely disagree with this verdict and feel that I was treated unfairly by the court. The whole situation is very sad,” he said in a statement. “I will defend my integrity and will be appealing this decision.”
So while Brannon is making headlines statewide, they certainly aren’t going to help his Senate bid.