Back Channels: Democrats backing 'tea-party' candidates

Posted: August 29, 2010

Vice President Biden gave his view of the opposition in this fall's elections at a recent Democratic gathering:

"[T]his ain't your father's Republican Party. This is the Republican Tea Party."

Uh-oh. We know what that means. People who are worried about taxes, spending, and debt. People who will stand up in a town-hall meeting and challenge lawmakers - even if it means hurting politicians' feelings.

Obviously, for Democrats, that means we're talking people who are racist (if you believe the NAACP and others) and un-American, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the opponents of health-care reform last summer.

Such people should be shunned, right? But what are Democrats doing? Busting their behinds to put tea-party candidates on the ballot.

Mind you, they act not because they believe in anything espoused by the tea parties - lower taxes, less spending, limited government, the Constitution, the free-market system. No, they act for higher callings: electing Democrats to office, holding onto Democratic majorities in Congress.

The strategy is simple enough. Democrats believe with all their heart that in addition to being racist and un-American, tea-party folks - or conservatives, or Republicans, or frankly anyone who disagrees with them - are stupid. (i.e., If you don't get that we spend for thee, thou art a moron.) So, the thinking goes, when faced with three parties on election day - R, D, or tea - the stupid voter will go with No. 3, splitting the conservative vote and allowing Democrats to squeak by in a challenging political time. Or perhaps the tea-party simpleton is so confused by all the options that his head explodes and there's one less conservative vote. Messy, but effective.

Of course, no Democratic candidate or committee admits to such tactics - that would be stupid and we know to whom that adjective applies. But The Inquirer, Politico, and others have reported on several instances of Democrats helping so-called tea-party candidates - nationwide and close to home.

Florida: Republicans and tea-party activists are accusing Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and a Republican consultant of forming a front group, the Florida Tea Party, to help Democratic candidates in state and congressional races, including Grayson.

Michigan: A Democratic official was forced to resign his party position last week after being accused of fraudulently notarizing campaign filings for a dozen so-called tea-party candidates. The 23 candidates statewide who were supposedly representing tea parties have been denied ballot positions.

New Jersey: In the Third Congressional District, where Republican Jon Runyan is challenging Democratic freshman U.S. Rep. John Adler, the GOP says the incumbent is boosting the third-party bid of Peter DeStefano. There are reports of longtime Adler and Democratic Party supporters signing nominating petitions, and Adler's campaign suspiciously released an early internal poll that included DeStefano. Adler denies any connection between his campaign and DeStefano.

Pennsylvania: In the governor's race, a review of state records led the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to report on Aug. 10: "Members of unions that endorsed Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, as well as one of his campaign workers, helped get Tea Party candidate John Krupa onto Pennsylvania's gubernatorial ballot." Krupa dropped out of the race a week later when challenged by tea-party activists.

In the Seventh District race to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, third-party candidate Jim Schneller wouldn't be on the ballot with Republican Pat Meehan and Democrat Bryan Lentz if not for Democrats circulating petitions for him. Swarthmore Democrat Colleen Guiney, one of the "Lentz or Schneller for Congress" devotees, was referred to by Lentz earlier this year as "the hardest worker on my campaign." A hearing on Meehan's challenge to Schneller's candidacy is scheduled for this week.

"It's almost an admission that the party's candidates need something other than merit to win this fall," a recent Detroit Free Press editorial said of the Michigan case.

Exactly right. If this truly had been Recovery Summer, Democrats would have a talking point or two. But with poor unemployment, housing, and GDP numbers, it just looks as if they've spent the last 19 months binge spending to fulfill liberal wish lists rather than focusing on the economy and creating jobs.

Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report, said last week on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio program that the current economy has Americans worried. They are saving where they can, paying down debt, and being very careful about spending. To act otherwise, as Democrats have been doing, seems stupid. And no amount of campaign trickery will make them support such behavior this fall.


Contact Kevin Ferris at 215-854-5305 or kf@phillynews.com.

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