Tea Party candidates might have lost Republican primaries Tuesday, but
they’ve moved the party far to the right.
Republican primaries in North Carolina, Ohio, and Indiana Tuesday, but
that’s not how Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie
Wasserman Schultz sees it.
“The Tea Party has won the civil war that has been raging inside the
Republican Party,” she said at a breakfast for reporters hosted by The
Christian Science Monitor Wednesday. It has done this, she says, by
turning “establishment” Republican candidates into Tea Party clones.
Take Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker who on Tuesday took
first place in a Republican Senate primary and will face the freshman
Democratic incumbent, Sen. Kay Hagan, in November. He was widely
touted as the “establishment” candidate. But Representative Wasserman
“Thom Tillis is no longer, if he ever was, an establishment candidate.
He was dramatically pulled to the right,” she said.
With the Tea Party candidates on the losing side Tuesday — and losing
national appeal, according to polls — some argue that the Democrats
stand to be the big losers this November. No longer will Democrats
benefit from untested Tea Party candidates losing general election
races, as happened in Indiana, Missouri, and Delaware during the
previous two election cycles.
But Wasserman Schultz begs to differ. She says Republicans are out of
step with mainstream voters, who favor issues Democrats are putting
forward: an increase in the minimum wage, extending unemployment
benefits, pay equity for women, a pathway to citizenship for illegal
immigrants, and fixing — not repealing — the Affordable Care Act.
Obsessively seeking repeal of Obamacare has “lost its luster” for GOP
voters, Wasserman Schultz stated. That’s why, she said, House
Republicans have opened a new front, announcing a special
investigative panel on the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission
in Benghazi, Libya. She called the panel “nothing more than a
political ploy,” and said that Democratic leaders in the House are
right to demand that the panel be made up of equal numbers of
Republicans and Democrats.
“I do think that our leadership should seriously consider not
participating if the process is not going to be fair,” she said.
Looking forward to the midterm elections, she dismisses the importance
of a recent poll suggesting that more Americans would vote for a
Republican candidate for Congress over a Democrat. This “generic
ballot” polling doesn’t take into account specific races, issues, and
Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, Wasserman Schultz said. She
predicted that Democrats would oust Republican governors in
Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maine and also have opportunities to win
U.S. Senate races in Kentucky, Georgia, and possibly Mississippi.
Vulnerable Democratic senators are in “challenging races,” she
admitted, but “we have incumbent members who… know their people that
they represent, and I think we’ll be successful in November.”
She emphasized a superior ground game in registering and mobilizing
voters, a must-do for Democrats who traditionally trail Republican
turnout in off-year elections — especially with a president with
drooping job approval.
The GOP, though, has upped its game with investment in technology and
ground forces. Wasserman Schultz pooh-poohed that effort. “While the
Republicans are funding some bells and whistles, culturally, the
problem that they have is that you don’t just throw a bunch of money
at high-tech tools, flip a switch, and boom, you have a grass roots
network,” she said. “It takes years to build that culture.”
In the longer term, Wasserman Schultz said Democrats are going to make
sure they don’t have “another 2010,” when Republicans swept to power
in the U.S. House and many state legislatures, then redrew maps of
voting districts to give Republicans an advantage. The goal, she says,
is that as the next census in 2020 nears, “we are able to win
legislative chambers back so that we can be in the strongest possible
position for redistricting.”
On other subjects, Wasserman Schultz predicted a woman president
within “a couple of cycles” if Hillary Rodham Clinton chooses not to
run and described immigration reform as “the lens through which
Hispanics look” at politics.
While immigration is not the most important issue for Hispanics, “you
can’t be wrong as a candidate on that issue.”
She seemed to question whether Obama should take further executive
action to stop deportation of illegal immigrants, as he is being
pressured to do.
“An executive action on immigration reform, particularly deportations,
would only survive his presidency,” she said. It would be unlikely to
relieve the current uncertainty that besets many undocumented