Tea party splits GOP in thirds, says Republican strategist

WASHINGTON — Views on the tea party split the Republican Party into thirds, which could cause the GOP difficulty moving into the next election cycle, says a top party strategist.

 “This is trouble for the party,” said Bill McInturff, a partner in the influential Republican polling firm of Public Opinion Strategies. He was an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 president campaign and this year polled for one third of GOP House pick-ups as well as nine senators.

Based on the results of questions included in the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll of which he is co-director, Mr. McInturff says the GOP breaks into three groups of roughly equal size based on their views of the tea party. “So you look at a party that is now split into those three groups,” McInturff said Thursday at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters.

 “You have a third of Republicans who say ‘I am not a tea party person.’ You have a third of Republicans who say ‘I am a Republican and a tea party [person] but when asked, I think of myself more as Republican.’ And now you have a third …that says ‘I am a Republican but I really think of myself as a Tea Party person,’ ” McInturff said.

The groups can vary sharply in terms of “their issue positions and their intensity,” McInturff said. He used a military metaphor to describe the differences. “The Republican tea party folks who say that they are tea party are like the special forces elite troops. The Republicans who are tea party but regular Republicans are sort of like the regular army. And the Republicans who aren’t the tea party are kind of the support staff far from the front lines.”

At the moment, tea party self-identifiers are playing a key role in crucial party primaries. “In a Republican primary, those Republicans who are tea party persons – who think of themselves as tea party – they make up about a third right now of our party,” McInturff said. But he added, “they make up 40-plus percent of the primary vote or maybe higher … and believe me they are in a no-compromise stance.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/05/2010 - 12:09 pm.

    As I’ve said uncounted times before, anyone who believes that the Republicans have any interest at all in fiscal responsibility is spectacularly gullible. They are by far the worst borrow-and-spenders in American history, have been for 30 years, and all they have to do is rant about a Democrat’s deficit – that is one-third due to the economic collapse their policies brought about, and another third due to the irresponsible tax cuts put in place by Bush – and people are stupid enough to believe them.

    Of course, it helped enormously that the Democrats couldn’t be bothered pointing any of this out to the electorate. I’m still in awe at their unwillingness to fight.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/06/2010 - 09:28 am.

    If McInturff knew anything about the history of the conservative movement, he’d know that this isn’t new. Since the 1960s and days of Nelson Rockerfeller, Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, et al, the republican party has consisted of three wings.

    The social conservatives believe in traditional societal norms. They don’t want the government to take God out the public square, including the classroom, define marriage as between two same-sex people, or allow gays in the military. They enlist in the military because that’s what patriots do and they go to church every Sunday.

    The fiscal conservatives believe in free markets and the free enterprise system and see government taxation and regulation as obstacles to economic freedom and security. They want goverment out of the private sector and abhor excessive government spending and debt because it interferes with the free flow of capital.

    The libertarians believe in live and let live. They don’t want the government involved in the marketplace and they despise social engineering of all types. “You either believe in freedom or you don’t” is their motto.

    What they all have in common is a desire for government to play a smaller role in our lives and a return to traditional societal values and norms. That’s why most Tea Partiers are older, white, Christian people. They grew up in a time with less intrusive government and a more free people. Nothing’s changed in the past 40 years with regard to these three wings other than the national events that cause one or the other to take center stage during that time.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/06/2010 - 03:03 pm.

    Republicans want smaller government and one that plays little or no role in their personal affairs — until a bridge falls down or a polluted river kills all its fish or their kids are in classrooms of 50 other kids and one teacher or the banks steal their homes or a street criminal steals their purses or the libraries all close down or the stop-lights stop working or the snow doesn’t get plowed for six weeks or the public parks start charging $15-$20 admission or the price of peanut butter goes to $10.99 and gas to $5.00 and all the businesses leave in search of well-maintained infrastructure and ……… et cetera.

    Oh, they say. Maybe taxes really ARE a good thing.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/06/2010 - 04:52 pm.

    Bernice, I said less government, not no government. The government that governs least governs best.

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