To the uninitiated, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas holds the resume of someone who could threaten Sen. John Cornyn. The two-time congressman's outspoken, off-the-cuff conservatism would, on paper, be the right pose for a challenger mounting an insurgent campaign against a deep-pocketed senator who's seen as too close to the establishment.
But dive a bit deeper, and Stockman's record is filled with obvious landmines that would scare away even the most committed tea-party allies. As a congressman in the 1990s, he accused the Clinton administration of staging the Waco raid to promote an assault-weapons ban. Stockman supposedly managed several businesses that may not even exist. He was once caught smuggling Valium wrapped in his underwear. He currently holds more campaign debt than money in his campaign account. Even the Club for Growth, which enjoys pestering the GOP establishment, declined to endorse his candidacy Tuesday, while praising Cornyn's conservative record.
Stockman may be an extreme example, but behind the tea-party wave that's challenged the supremacy of the Republican establishment is a slew of not-ready-for-primetime conservative Senate candidates. Outside groups, led by the Senate Conservatives Fund, have rallied behind numerous primary challengers, more focused on their principles than their ability to win. But like an undisciplined batter swinging at every pitch, the GOP has shown that there's little concerted strategy behind the opposition. Conservatives may boast a record number of candidates running against sitting Republican senators--seven of the 12 GOP senators up in 2014 are facing primary opponents--but their batting average could be embarrassingly low at the end.
Indeed, the Club for Growth has endorsed only one of the renegades, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, with no plans to get involved in any other Senate races.Gallup reports:
Of the seven primary challenges, Republican strategists view the Mississippi Senate race as the only contest where the challenger has a serious shot at winning. In that race, McDaniel, known as the Jim DeMint of the Mississippi state Legislature, jumped in the race before Sen. Thad Cochran announced his reelection plans. After the Thanksgiving holiday, Cochran announced he's running for a seventh term, but he hasn't faced a serious challenge in decades. Conservative groups have commissioned polling in Mississippi, concluding that the senior appropriator is at risk of losing reelection.
For the first time, a slim majority of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party movement. About one-third view the movement favorably, a new low. A smaller percentage, 22%, in a separate question identify themselves as supporters of the movement, while 24% describe themselves as opponents. Nearly half (48%) are neutral.
The majority of Republicans, 58%, say they have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, with slightly more than one-quarter (28%) viewing it unfavorably. Democrats, on the other hand, are largely unfavorable toward the group, with 74% reporting an unfavorable view. Independents fall in between the two parties, but are more likely to view the movement unfavorably than favorably.
Though the Tea Party espouses conservative fiscal goals, self-identified conservatives, as a whole, are somewhat divided about the movement. A full third (34%) of conservatives have an unfavorable opinion of the group, while 48% are favorable.