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Tea Party Success Could Be Pyrrhic Victory for GOP
DURHAM, N.C. - Despite big wins in Tuesday's Republican Senate race in Delaware and GOP gubernatorial election in New York, the Tea Party movement "has not yet succeeded" in changing the American political landscape, says a Duke University political scientist.
"All that is happened is that some Tea Party candidates have won Republican nominations," says Michael Munger, a professor of political science and economics at Duke. "These victories could be Pyrrhic, causing the Republicans to lose races they could have won with more mainstream candidates."
Munger, the Libertarian candidate for governor of North Carolina in 2008, says there are some historical precedents for what we are now seeing.
"We are headed either for 1964 or 1994. In 1964, a deeply principled, but extreme, candidate (Barry Goldwater) was chosen by the right wing of the Republican Party. By choosing principle over electoral expedience, the party lost badly, but in losing showed that Republicans cared deeply about certain core beliefs and would not compromise.
"In 1994, a set of principles were laid out in the Contract with America, and the Republicans used this as a vehicle to ride to a majority in the House. Now one of these elections was a presidential race and the other was a midterm, like 2010. But the point is that the Tea Party could either cause the Republicans to win big, if people unhappy with the Democrats want a return to conservative principles, or to lose big, if they are perceived as too extreme."
Munger said a possible worst-case scenario for Republicans in November would be to win a narrow House majority, with the Democrats maintaining a majority in the Senate.
"If Republicans end up with 220 seats, say, and not control the Senate, then all they can do is obstruct. Clinton skillfully hammered the Republicans after 1994, and it could happen again. I'll go out on a limb: If Republicans win a narrow majority in the House, then Obama has a much better chance of winning a second term as president."
For more information, visit Munger's web page at http://polisci.duke.edu/people?Gurl=%2Faas%2FPoliticalScience&Uil=michael.munger&subpage=profile.
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