If anyone thought the tea party movement would fade away after the November elections, content to have played a key role in ousting the ruling Democratic class and splintered by internal divisions, they were mistaken.
Saturday’s victory by tea party favorite Jack Kimball in the New Hampshire GOP chairman’s race provided the most significant evidence to date that the energy that activists brought to the midterms is now being channeled in a different direction—one that could reshape the 2012 GOP presidential race and require candidates to rethink the traditional approaches to winning the Republican nomination.
Already the selection of a Glenn Beck man over a Goldwater girl for state party chair is sending tremors through the GOP establishment in the first-in-the-nation primary state. New Hampshire’s Republican political class, always vigilant in guarding and nurturing the state’s key role in the business of electing presidents, is fearful that Kimball’s unyielding conservatism could alienate prospective GOP presidential contenders who might decide to bypass the state and therefore diminish its influence in the nominating process.
New Hampshire isn’t the only place where the forces of tea party activism are colliding with the establishment in struggles for control of the GOP apparatus.
Aside from Kimball, two other tea party-affiliated candidates knocked off establishment picks to win state party chairmanships Saturday—radio talk show host Kirby Wilbur in Washington state and conservative activist Tom Morrissey in Arizona. A third GOP chairman elected Saturday, Oregon’s Allen Alley, didn’t hail from the grassroots conservative populist wing of the party but he aggressively courted it—and his message of tight-fisted spending appealed to tea party activists.
Morrissey, whose win came despite the opposition of Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, made sure to note in his victory speech who elected him to the new post.
“My election today is a testimony to the new energy in our party, the constitutional conservatives, the Tea Party, you people. This is your victory. We need to come together now,” Morrissey said.