The bold, brazen brawlers bearing the “Don’t Tread on Me” banners who swept into office in 2010 have won few significant legislative victories. The cuts they demanded have all been forestalled to the future. They’ve voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times. They’ve also voted to turn Medicare into a voucher system to pay for trillions in new breaks for the richest Americans, twice. But these victories were symbolic at best, time killers that will never become actual law as long as there is a Democrat in the White House.
The Tea Party’s one real victory was holding the economy hostage, refusing to raise the debt limit during the summer of 2011. Many wondered if the Tea Party knew that raising the debt limit only allowed the government to pay the bills it had already ran up mostly due to Bush policies and failures. In a weak economy, this stunt created uncertainty and the first credit downgrade in U.S. history. In the end the GOP settled for a debt deal they now refuse to honor.
A new study from Democracy Corps reveals that several of these so-called Tea Partiers hold some of the most vulnerable seats in the House — and their defeats may be part of a wave election that could give the House back to the Democrats. Find out more about the dynamics behind the upcoming election by subscribing to the Carville-Greenburg Memo.
Here’s a look at the Tea Party freshmen who may never make it to their second term.
When not out-McCarthying Joe McCarthy, Allen West says crazy things. It’s not worth repeating the best of his accusations because he’ll likely be repeating them as a talk radio show host soon. He’s in a district in Florida the President won by 3% and West has voted to voucherize Medicare twice. He’s is the perfect example of the kind of unhinged sort who can be elected in a low-turnout election.
He isn’t the guy from the Eagles. In fact, the real Joe Walsh wants to distance himself from Tea Partier Joe Walsh so badly that the rocker endorsed Walsh’s opponent, veteran Tammy Duckworth. Walsh made news for falling behind on his child support payments, being rude to constituents and defaming his opponent for running on her military record. The district he is in went for the President by a 24-point margin in 2008. So if Joe Walsh ever unpacked his clothes in DC, expect him to be looking for a job as a lobbyist.
In 2010, Chip Cravaack was proud to be a Tea Partier. This year, he’s a “centrist” (although his centrist credentials include voting with fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann to default on America’s debt.) A former union airline pilot, Cravaack also touts his pro-labor votes. His district gave the President a plus 8% advantage so this freshman knows he needs to win over some Obama voters if he gets to keep his sweet government gig.
Congressman Guinta is already serving with distinction. CREW called the representative from New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district one of the “Most Corrupt” members of the House. He made several loans to his campaign that he claimed came from his own income. Yet the size of the loans made that improbable. National Journal said he’s more conservative than Joe Walsh, Allen West and even Michele Bachmann. That makes holding a district that went for the President by 7% a real challenge.
Representative Schilling is a brave man. His district supported the President by a 22% margin in 2008 but Schilling now suggests that the President may be holding back economic growth “on purpose.” Schilling is one of the few Tea Partiers who actually turned down his government health care. But if he can’t convince some of the President’s supporters to vote for him in November, he won’t have to make that sacrifice again next term.
Here’s where the 2012 election stops being polite and gets real. Tea Party darling Sean Duffy is famous for two reasons. He starred in a season of MTV’s reality show Real World and after he was elected to Congress, he publicly complained about the struggle of living on his $174,000 a year government salary. Apparently he did much better in the private sector. Voters may kindly arrange for him to make a reasonable wage again by electing a Democrat in his Obama-leaning district.