Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll (again…yawn)

To the surprise of few, Texas Congressman Ron Paul beat out a slew of Republican candidates to win the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC for short) straw poll, a traditional close out event for the gathering. His 30% of the vote bested other so-called frontrunners Mitt Romney (23%), Newt Gingrich (5%), Tim Pawlenty (4%), and Sarah Palin (3 percent.) It was Paul’s second CPAC win in a row; last year he ended Mitt Romney’s three-year winning streak.

But bear in mind that the poll only counted a total of 3,742 ballots; by comparison, Wicomico County accounted for 8,902 Republican primary votes in 2008. Moreover, Paul’s Campaign for Liberty front group was a key promoter of the event, so the results weren’t completely surprising.

Straw polls can be notoriously fickle, too. Remember back in September 2007 when Duncan Hunter won a Texas straw poll? By the time Texas actually had a say in the matter, Duncan Hunter was long gone from the presidential contest. (Too bad, because he was my personal choice.) While his campaign was one of notable conservativism and attracted backing from luminaries like Gen. Chuck Yeager, WorldNetDaily‘s Joseph Farah, and columnist Ann Coulter, Hunter disappeared from the race shortly after the New Hampshire primary. (Perhaps Hunter simply ran four years too soon, but there’s no indication so far he’s looking for a repeat in 2012.)

Even the Ames Straw Poll, which is seen as a kickoff to the Presidential race because of its Iowa location, hasn’t been a good prognosticator of results. Out of five such events, only twice (Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999) has the eventual GOP nominee been the winner of this bellweather event. Mitt Romney won the straw ballot in 2007 but didn’t even win the state’s caucuses five months later.

So it would appear that Ron Paul, despite running strongly in a caucus-style situation, wouldn’t have a great chance of winning the GOP nod. After all, this would be his third time around the block should he choose to run – besides the 2008 campaign, he ran as the Libertarian Party standardbearer in 1988 – and he would almost certainly be the oldest candidate in the field since he turns 76 in August. Another strike against him is that most states have winner-take-all primaries, although Republican Party rules this time around push those states to the back of the electoral line.

But there are a number of ways that Paul can have a role in the race, even if he doesn’t win or even come anywhere close to victory. Consider the impact of the TEA Party this time around.

It’s a group that wasn’t politically active in 2008, which served as the end of the era of so-called compassionate conservatism. While this new course of conservativism was designed to appeal to the big tent of moderate voters the result was an ever-expanding government, and Republicans disgusted with the excesses of the Bush years stayed home in droves on Election Day. The only excitement in the McCain campaign turned out to be the selection of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee; picking the Alaska governor may have been the only thing to save McCain from a Goldwater-like electoral slaughter by Barack Obama.

Yet despite the fact only two years have passed since that nadir, the political landscape has been irrevocably changed by the ascension of the TEA Party, with the proof being the 2010 midterm elections. There’s no need to recount here the entire rise of the TEA Party, but it’s a group where Ron Paul’s acolytes have certainly found a home. Add to that the evidence from 2008 that Paul can be a powerful and convincing fundraiser, and it shows the financial firepower and grassroots support should be there for a reasonable run at the brass ring.

This election will be a showdown between establishment Republicans who favor the predictability of a Mitt Ronmey and the TEA Party irregulars who could throw their support behind Paul initially and make or break the candidacy of whichever populist conservative eventually emerges as Ronmey’s foremost challenger for the nomination.

In time, Ron Paul could become a dealmaker, with his small but loyal following moving squarely behind another darkhorse candidate like Herman Cain, Jim DeMint, or Gary Johnson. (It’s a sure bet that Donald Trump is not on that list.)

But at this early stage, Paul and his legions can bask in the glow of a straw poll neatly set up to make him look good. We’re still nearly a year out from actual voting so every Republican with a pulse theoretically has a shot at the nomination. Most of the likely contenders are working hard behind the scenes building a campaign team while being coy about their intentions in public.

Still, in a time where conventional wisdom has evolved into a contest of who can most completely upset the apple cart in the quickest time, we can’t just dismiss the renegade Texan. The CPAC results prove Ron Paul has a role to play in this process, with the question being only what frontrunners like Romney and Palin will do to accommodate his diligent supporters.

Cain raised to top in GOP poll

The former Godfather Pizza CEO pulled it out in the end, but a widely split GOP Presidential poll here drew votes for nearly twenty possible contenders. This goes to show that…we need to see just who will enter the field for sure, as Cain is the first reasonable contender to establish an exploratory committee.

This is how they finished:

  • Herman Cain (former Godfather Pizza CEO, radio host) – 10 (12.82%)
  • Gary Johnson (former New Mexico governor) – 9 (11.54%)
  • Chris Christie (New Jersey governor) – 8 (10.26%)
  • Ron Paul (Congressman from Texas, 2008 Presidential candidate) – 8 (10.26%)
  • Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House) – 7 (8.97%)
  • Sarah Palin (2008 VP candidate, former Alaska governor) – 6 (7.69%)
  • Rudy Giuliani (2008 Presidential candidate, former NYC mayor) – 5 (6.41%)
  • Michele Bachmann (Congressman from Minnesota) – 4 (5.13%)
  • Tim Pawlenty (outgoing Minnesota governor) – 4 (5.13%)
  • Mitt Romney (2008 Presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor) – 3 (3.85%)
  • Donald Trump (businessman) – 3 (3.85%)
  • Mitch Daniels (Indiana governor) – 2 (2.56%)
  • Jim DeMint (Senator from South Carolina) – 2 (2.56%)
  • Paul Ryan (Congressman from Wisconsin) – 2 (2.56%) – write-in
  • Rick Santorum (former Senator from Pennsylvania) – 2 (2.56%)
  • George Allen (former Senator from Virginia) – 1 (1.28%) – write-in
  • Mike Pence (Congressman from Indiana) – 1 (1.28%) – withdrew
  • John Thune (Senator from North Dakota) – 1 (1.28%)
  • Haley Barbour (Mississippi governor) – 0 (o%)
  • Mike Huckabee (2008 Presidential candidate, former Arkansas governor) – 0 (0%)

If you look at your top 6 candidates in this poll, you’d find the TEA Party carried a great amount of influence along with the libertarian wing of the GOP (who would tend to support Ron Paul and Gary Johnson.)

But would all of them be viable? Time will tell, but if you look at the top contenders from 2008 there’s little desire for a rewarmed candidate. Since I don’t consider Ron Paul as an ‘establishment’ candidate, the top votegetter among the group was Rudy Giuliani with 5 votes. Even combining the other 2008 aspirants (including Paul) they collected just 16 votes, which is barely 20 percent of the total vote. Mike Huckabee was shut out.

The only 2008 names which seem to have support are Ron Paul and Sarah Palin, who didn’t run for the top job four years ago but was added to the ticket just prior to the GOP convention. She polled reasonably well in this trial, but those who believe the nomination is hers to lose may want to think again.

Over the next month or two we’ll likely see the field shake out a bit as some of the bottom-feeders (and maybe a top name or two) decide to take a pass. The remainder of the contenders will likely begin getting their teams together for the busy times one year hence.

Isn’t it a bit early for this?

Well, regardless of the fact the survivor of the process won’t know the final result for another 21 1/2 months, the polls have begun for the GOP nomination in 2012, with the winner most likely taking on President Obama that November.

Today Rasmussen released a poll which showed Mitt Romney has the early lead for the GOP nomination, with 24 percent replying they prefer Mitt at this nascent stage. Sarah Palin netted 19% while Mike Huckabee picked up 17 percent. The top contender who didn’t run in 2008, Newt Gingrich, had 11 percent while national newcomer Tim Pawlenty finished under the “undecided” (10%) with a 6% score. Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels rounded out the field.

One weakness in the Rasmussen Poll is that they somewhat arbitrarily picked the seven contenders, yet they point out that the leaders at this stage rarely end up with the nomination. As I recall, at this time four years ago we were supposed to have a rematch of the abortive 2000 New York Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Hillary was the last person standing between Barack Obama and the 2008 Democratic nomination, but Rudy was an early casualty in the GOP race.

This is notable about the methodology, though:

The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary.

In other words, they rely on an open primary of sorts. More tellingly:

Romney, Palin and Huckabee are essentially in a three-way tie among voters who describe themselves as very conservative. Those who characterize themselves as somewhat conservative and moderate/liberal have a clear preference for Romney.

Yet Palin has the lead among TEA Partiers, and there’s no real way of knowing just how much influence they’ll have over the GOP nominating process in states with both open and closed primaries.

New Hampshire is a state with an open primary, and a straw poll was conducted there over the weekend – 273 Granite State Republicans scattered their votes among a total of 20 candidates. It’s not particularly surprising that Mitt Romney won, but 35 percent isn’t all that overwhelming considering he comes from a neighboring state and is a name well-known to “establishment” Republicans. Ron Paul was a distant second with 11 percent.

However, if you look at the candidates who could be considered the “darlings” of the TEA Party (Paul, Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Herman Cain, Mike Pence, and Gary Johnson) you get just as much support as Romney drew – they add up to 37 percent. Once the TEA Party can coalesce around one or two candiates, the race will be joined. 

It’s pretty amazing to think that only one of those mentioned (Herman Cain) has even taken the step to form an exploratory committee – the rest are still considering if and when to jump in. But surely over the next few months the final field will emerge, and it will be fun to see how the race shakes out.

Home state advantage?

It was a small sample to be sure, but unsurprisingly Michael Steele won my RNC Chair poll. There were only 33 votes, which I found disappointing. I enjoyed the write-ins, though.

Here’s how the totals break down (including write-ins):

  • Michael Steele – 11 (33.3%)
  • Reince Priebus – 5 (15.2%)
  • Saul Anuzis – 4 (12.1%)
  • Maria Cino – 3 (9.1%)
  • Gentry Collins – 2 (6.1%)
  • Ann Wagner – 2 (6.1%)
  • Sarah Palin (write-in) – 2 (6.1%)
  • Michael Swartz (write-in) – 2 (6.1%)
  • Gary Johnson (write-in) – 1 (3%)
  • Rush Limbaugh (write-in) – 1 (3%)

While I thank my supporter (or supporters) for the two votes, let me just quote William Tecumseh Sherman, “If nominated, I will not accept; if drafted, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.” Still, I’m flattered.

I think this poll proves two things, though. As I was watching this poll develop over the last few days, initially Steele had an absolute majority but as time went on it became a plurality. This is interesting because the majority (about 3/4) of my readers come from Maryland so one would naturally assume he would do well. Either I had more out-of-state voters come on board or Steele is losing his status as a favorite son.

Secondly, there seems to be a large streak of “none-of-the-aboveism” among the rank-and-file, almost as if they are asking, “is this the best we can do?” Certainly there is some celebrity involved (witness the votes for Palin and Limbaugh) but the votes for Gary Johnson (and to a lesser extent, yours truly) may suggest that a direction more conducive to the TEA Party is desired. (Just for the record, I didn’t vote in this poll.) Despite the naysayers, I think the TEA Party is finding its voice in the GOP. (I’ll have more to say on that opinion in coming days.)

Even so, among the people who count, there is a suggestion that Steele is in peril as he bids for a second term as GOP head. We’ll see how it all shakes out on January 15, although there is a debate scheduled for this afternoon among the six announced contenders. (I had other plans.) I believe a number of those who can vote may be making their mind up after they hear all six speak in a public forum, and I also think that when we get to voting in twelve days there will only be three or four nominated. The bottom-feeders know the score as well as the rest of us.

Friday night videos episode 46

I wasn’t done yet, it was simply a dearth of decent video and some other plans taking up my Friday nights. Here you have the return of FNV after a two-week hiatus.

How about we start with this one? This could be a great movie, although it tells us what we already know.

Another thing we already know is that Sarah Palin remains popular, despite all the naysayers. That and she has her own political action committee.

And we also know that the stimulus is a boondoggle. It’s a little tougher to steal these political roadside signs than to take the neighbor’s O’Malley one – not that I condone the activity.

I may reuse this one in a few weeks.

I will be at the polling place on November 2nd with bells on. There could be a hurricane blowing and I’d be there.

Shifting gears, there’s a little surprise at the end of the Freedom Minute. But I’m curious why they used that particular hospital as a backdrop.

I came across this a couple weeks back, and you know, it fits in with the mindset of many perfectly. Besides, the series of commercials from Progressive Insurance (which is owned by uberlefty Peter Lewis) really desperately needed to be made fun of.

It’s not quite Halloween, but here is some more scary stuff in a serious vein to close this edition. Whether you come down in favor of amnesty for illegals or not, this is a good case for closing the borders.

Since I crammed this one sort of full, I’ll skip the music this time. Maybe I’ll do a double dose on the next one.

Murphy finds it difficult to gain traction despite Palin endorsement

The old saying is that “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Bucking the establishment is hard, even with a little bit of outside help. Maryland gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy is finding this out the hard way as the first-time candidate isn’t just going up against former governor Bob Ehrlich in the September 14 primary election but also against a party establishment stacked in Ehrlich’s favor.

Before Palin had surprised observers with her backing of Murphy, the only two backers of any consequence Brian had were Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and former Maryland GOP chair Jim Pelura, who stepped down last year amidst continued financial woes for the state party. Jenkins opted to back Murphy due to his hardline stance on illegal immigration and became the first elected Republican to openly do so.

Slowly, though, other Republicans not yet elected but seeking office are beginning to back Murphy – some publicly while others exhibit more tacit approval.

Troy Stouffer, who’s running for the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District seat held by C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, announced in a note on his personal Facebook page he was backing Murphy, but was careful to note that he’d back Ehrlich in the general election should he survive the primary.

In essence, it all comes down to principles with him. “The Republican Party elite have been telling us for years that a Conservative simply cannot win in (Maryland), but yet we are greatly outnumbered in the House and the Senate in Annapolis and we rarely make any significant gains in our numbers in either voter registration or our elected representation,” Stouffer remarked. “The voters want to see someone with a backbone stand up for what they believe, not some politician sticking their finger in the wind to see which direction the wind is blowing. You either stand up for your principles or get out of the way.”

“I promised that I would not turn into some politician that was willing to compromise on my core values and principles just to gain a political edge.”

It was a sentiment agreed with by local candidates as well. Julie Brewington is a work-from-home mother of twins, a co-founder of the local Americans for Prosperity chapter, and a first-time candidate running for the House of Delegates in District 38A, which covers much of the rural southern reaches of the Eastern Shore along the Virginia border. Her house has a Brian Murphy sign out front and she’s posed for a picture with Brian at one of his recent local appearances, but in speaking to Julie I found her hesitant to make a public endorsement of Brian so as not to alienate Ehrlich backers – conversely, she’s much more open in showing her support for fellow conservative and U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Rutledge. Like Stouffer, Julie promised to support the GOP primary winner and “will be enthusiastic to do so.”

Rani Merryman, who’s another first-time candidate running for a House of Delegates seat in a suburban Baltimore County district, agrees.

I like what Murphy has to say, though I really don’t get into the whole endorsement thing. When people ask me about the governor’s race, I usually respond with factual information and follow it (by saying) ‘for too long, political parties have been choosing who the people would support,’” said Rani, another political outsider making her first run for office.

On the other hand, there are a number of officeholders who make no secret of their support for Ehrlich. Candidates across the state have adopted signage featuring both their name and the stylized blue-and-white Ehrlich moniker. Some hopefuls are even using the Ehrlich brand to fatten their coffers among fellow GOP supporters.

One example is John Phoebus, a Crisfield attorney who’s running against Brewington and two others to take that District 38A seat, a seat which opened up upon the death of two-term Delegate D. Page Elmore (His wife Carolyn was appointed as a caretaker for the seat; she is not running for election.) Phoebus recently held a fundraiser featuring Kendal Ehrlich as the guest speaker – Marylanders are almost as familiar with her as they are with Bob as the couple has co-hosted a Saturday morning radio show since Ehrlich left office in 2007. That familiarity extends to Phoebus, who has known the Ehrlichs since 2002 and said he was “honored by their support of me in this fashion.”

Still others simply wish Murphy would just pack up and go home, with a few diehard Ehrlich supporters even creating a Facebook page called, “Tell Brian What’s his name to Drop Out!” In it, they claim that, “A vote for Marty (sic) September 14th is a 1/2 a vote for O’Malley. Remember that Murphyites when you vote.”

Even so, their cause is not a large one as the page has only about thirty fans. And when I asked one of them, House of Delegates District 18 candidate Josephine Wang, about her presence as a fan of the page she replied, “I was never anti-Murphy because I didn’t know he was running. I thought that Ehrlich was the only one running.”

It’s a perception perhaps too many Republican voters have given the amount of name recognition Bob Ehrlich has and the template within Maryland’s dominant media to wish the “grudge match” which would sell papers and attract eyeballs to their evening news programs and websites.

When Bob Ehrlich takes the opportunity of a debate challenge from Brian Murphy to presumptively begin discussions with Martin O’Malley’s camp on a fall debating schedule, it means either one of two things: he’s extremely confident of victory in September or he’s trying to deflect attention away from a candidate who appeals to conservatives within his own party who recall Ehrlich’s fairly moderate record as governor. In either case, he ignores the conservative voter bloc at his peril.

This was originally written for Pajamas Media, but they decided not to run it unless Murphy surged in the polls. So it’s appearing here instead.

Murphy receives prime conservative endorsement

It’s backing coveted by many mainstream and TEA Party candidates, but this afternoon upstart Republican candidate for Governor Brian Murphy announced his bid had received the blessing of former VP hopeful Sarah Palin.

“I’m honored to endorse Brian Murphy for Governor of Maryland. Brian is a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment commonsense conservative and a firm believer in the free market and the cause for energy independence.

(continued on my Examiner.com page…)

Has the time come for a real maverick?

A few election cycles ago Republicans ended up nominating a real, honest-to-goodness old warhorse for their presidential candidate, putting him up against a scandal-plagued incumbent Democrat. With the off-year elections two years before bringing a resounding GOP victory, Republican regulars shrugged off the 23-year age gap between the two nominees and presumed that the contrast between the incumbent’s lacking character and their nominee’s homespun charm could still score them an upset victory.

But thanks to a lackluster campaign and just enough of a third-party effort to deny the incumbent a majority of the vote, Republican stalwart Bob Dole lost the 1996 election to Bill Clinton. It was an era which placed the term “triangulation” into the political lexicon and Clinton executed that strategy masterfully in winning a second term.

In fact, recent history suggests Washington insiders don’t do well as Republican candidates. George W. Bush won because he cut his political teeth in Texas, far from the nation’s capital. Similarly, Ronald Reagan governed California before winning the White House on his second try and America expected more of the same when they elected a Beltway insider to succeed him in Vice-President George H.W. Bush. Conversely, Dole and John McCain were longtime Republican fixtures in Washington, perhaps alienating them from the party grassroots.

To that end, a number of names being bandied about for the GOP nod in 2012 come from the ranks of state governors. While Bobby Jindal of Louisiana declared last week he was not in the running, there’s still several current or former state chief executives in the mix – Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Texas’s Rick Perry, 2008 candidates Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and of course former second banana Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Yet there is a Beltway insider who has enough appeal among the conservatives who attend events like CPAC or last week’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference to beat most of the above-mentioned names in their straw polls – he won the CPAC vote handily and just missed winning the SRLC balloting by one vote. If nominated, he would be 26 years older than the current incumbent Democratic president.

Somehow Ron Paul has escaped the wrath of being perceived as a Washington insider despite serving three stints in Congress totaling 20 years. Obviously he didn’t do particularly well in a crowded primary field in 2008 as far as gathering votes goes, but he proved a potent fundraiser and has become a darling among the portion of the Republican Party which preaches fiscal conservatism and limited government through his Campaign for Liberty organization. More importantly, he has an appeal among young conservatives which belies his age.

And with economic issues in the forefront this time around, one Achilles heel of Paul’s 2008 bid – his strident opposition to the war in Iraq – is off the table. His domestic policies generally follow a line which straddles conservatism and libertarianism, making him a definite friend of the TEA Party set.

It’s doubtful that many of the Presidential players for the 2012 cycle are going to make their intentions known before the 2010 election because of November’s potential for upending the Democrats’ stranglehold on our legislative branch. This wait-and-see approach serves to gauge the strength of TEA Party politics and the general anti-incumbent mood.

But don’t be surprised if the gentleman from Texas doesn’t toss his hat back into the presidential ring next year and is more successful this time around. Unlike Bob Dole, it’s not likely this elderly Washington insider will be uninspiring on the campaign trail.

Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer. This happened to be posted on April 12.

Thinking about tea

It’s a beautiful morning outside, and the snow pile that lay across the street from the driveway here has finally disappeared, so it must be spring! It’s not the type of morning which makes one think about doing taxes – as it happens, I haven’t done mine yet either – but it is the kind of morning which makes me think about the Tax Day TEA Party coming up in just over a month.

Certainly I hope the weather is more like what we’re enjoying today than the miserable damp and rainy day we endured last year, but the event promises to be bigger and better in many other ways. I know organizers are looking for musical entertainment to help fill a four-hour or so program, and that’s fine.

Yet I don’t necessarily want the event to lose its impact or its message by being bogged down in entertainment. It becomes less of a protest and more of an event like the annual picnic or fireman’s carnival if the pendulum swings too far in that direction.

The thing which appealed to me as I stood on the steps of the Government Office Building last year and said my brief piece was that the people I surveyed weren’t comprised of the same old political crowd I saw at any other party meeting or candidate forum. Instead, I was looking at a crowd of real-life Howard Beales – mad as hell, and they couldn’t take it anymore. Rather than stew about it or yell at the televison news, they came despite the weather to air their own grievances and make their voice heard.

No one knew if this would be a one-shot deal; after all, the naysayers always told us you can’t fight City Hall. But one protest sparked another and with several political battles being fought the anger and frustration were easily channeled into positive directions – in particular, the continuing fight against the takeover of one-sixth of our economy by the federal government. (If Medicare is broke, do we honestly believe putting more people on a similar program will enjoy success?)

So where do TEA Parties go from here? Well, they’ve spawned a copycat movement from their polar opposites, but the Astroturf known as the Coffee Party may not have the passion that it could have had it sprung up a year or two earlier. (Let me throw a question back at those guys – where were you when President Bush was enacting policies you didn’t like?)

But as the TEA Party movement matures there’s a risk that it ossifies into that which we protested against in the first place. While some say there’s room for a third political party, for years we’ve had a third, fourth, fifth, etc. and they’ve made little to no impact. The trick is figuring out how to infiltrate one (or, even better, both) of the major parties yet keep the movement fresh. After all, there’s always the possibility we get what we want, and like a team which wins the World Series after a long losing streak, we need to learn how to stay on top once we arrive there.

The biggest lesson, though, is that things will never again be as they once were. The TEA Party isn’t going to be the new cool thing forever but tyranny has been around as long as we’ve recorded history. In a time where fifteen minutes of fame is rapidly becoming fifteen seconds and yesterday’s hero is today’s zero (witness the souring of many on Sarah Palin), even protest has to change and grow.

But it can’t lose sight of the original message, for even when we have success the fight will be to maintain those victories.

Republicans divided

At a time when the political winds should be at their back the Republican Party may be ill-poised to make the electoral gains conventional wisdom and history dictate they should at this fall’s midterm elections.

Nowhere was this more evident than at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, better known by the acronym CPAC. One case in point: Rep. Ron Paul, who showed outstanding fund raising ability but few votes in the 2008 Presidential campaign, won 31% of the vote in a straw poll of preference for the 2012 Presidential nomination. The 76 year old Texas Congressman beat out such luminaries and former candidates as Mitt Romney (who had won the previous three CPAC straw polls), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee was also critical of CPAC, an event he skipped for the first time in several years, noting that the gathering had taken a more libertarian turn and focused less on conservative social issues. He also pointed out that the numerous TEA Parties had taken some of the luster off CPAC – however, over 10,000 participants registered for the event, making its 37th edition the largest ever.

There’s no question the TEA Party movement, which began with rallies about a year ago and became popularized by a nationally televised rant from CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli, has affected the GOP over the last year. While these newly-minted political advocates helped secure Chris Christie’s and Bob McDonnell’s victories in their respective New Jersey and Virginia races for governor and financially put Scott Brown in a position to be elected to the Senate, they also created a rift in the New York 23rd Congressional District race, allowing a Democrat to win there for the first time in over a century. Certainly this movement has caused GOP Chair Michael Steele no shortage of headaches during the first half of his two-year tenure.

Of course, Democrats have taken notice and are attempting to use this rift to their advantage. In Nevada, embattled Senator Harry Reid received some help as a group billing itself as the Tea Party placed a candidate on the November ballot. Organizers of the actual TEA Party movement in Nevada claim they know nothing about candidate Jon Ashjian or the ten people who are listed as the Tea Party’s slate of officers. Yet the group obtained the required 250 signatures and filed the requisite paperwork under the Tea Party moniker. Reid needs the third-party assistance as recent polls show he trails two of the leading GOP contenders, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian, by double-digits.

With a mindset of fiscal conservatism and dislike of President Obama’s agenda, those who comprise the TEA Party movement seem like the Holy Grail of supporters for the Republican Party. But many in the GOP establishment dislike the libertarian streak present among TEA Party participants while social conservatives like Huckabee fret their pet issues will continue to get short shrift. And TEA Party protesters themselves dislike many Congressional Republicans who supported unpopular Bush-era policies and entitlements, dismissing them as “Democrat-lite.”

Perhaps herding cats would be an easier task, but to win in November the Republicans will have to walk the tightrope of appeasing their existing base while integrating the TEA Partiers by appealing to their fiscal side. But TEA Partiers don’t mind the Republicans being the “party of no” because they fear the effect of President Obama’s statist policies, so standing firm in opposition and not heeding the siren song of “bipartisanship” with the unpopular Obama agenda may be the key to turning over Congress this fall.

Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

With a personnel change at LFS, apparently they are holding on to these for far less time. This cleared on Tuesday – tomorrow you get last week’s op-ed.

Friday night videos episode 23

This will be a somewhat abbreviated version which focuses less on politics and more on other fun stuff. I just have to remember to set these up to the proper format for my revised site.

Jim Rutledge is among five Republicans running for the United States Senate seat in Maryland. This is one of several videos he’s placed on his website to explain his views. (In the interest of fairness, I looked on his main competitor’s website and he has no videos – if I find he has a Youtube channel I’ll put his up.) This is called “The Bankrupting of America.”

A much more famous former (and future?) candidate graces the spotlight here. After the commercial (since this comes from the CBS News site) you can watch the entirety of Sarah Palin’s address to the TEA Party Convention in Nashville.

Since Palin’s speech was so long, I’m going to shift gears and add a couple local music videos I stumbled across. Each week I make an effort to be near my radio at 9 p.m. Sunday to catch the show “Local Produce” (it’s on 93.5 the Beach.) One of the hosts is Bob Daigle and in replaying my Semiblind video I featured last fall (“Right As Rain”) I found they did the same song acoustically at the 93.5 the Beach studios. Here’s that video.

And the original, plugged version I had from last October. The sound’s not as good but it’s interesting to hear the difference.

The solo which comes in about 2:30 works much better plugged in.

Lastly, this band is a local band called Vivid Season who’s taking time to help a good cause (as you’ll see in a post tomorrow. This is called a “tease.”)

Since the song is from their website, I don’t think they mind sharing.

Hope you enjoyed the extra music after the politics. If I can find enough good stuff from local bands I may make that a larger part of future FNV episodes – I figure I deal with politics five or six other days a week (depending on time of year) so why not let my hair down – what little I have – on the weekends, right?