News / USA

Conservative Tea Party Movement Shapes US Election Landscape

Tea Party candidate Rand Paul talks to attendees of the 'Red, White and Blue Picnic' in Owensboro, Kentucky
Tea Party candidate Rand Paul talks to attendees of the 'Red, White and Blue Picnic' in Owensboro, Kentucky

Across the United States, the influence of the conservative Tea Party movement is changing the way candidates are reaching out to voters ahead of the midterm elections November 2.  

In the state of Kentucky, at Reid's Orchard on the outskirts of Owensboro, the fire of a barbecue pit sends the smell of hamburgers and beans into the warm evening air.

Bringing candidates together

Free food and conversation draws voters from across the political spectrum to an election year tradition in this part of the country: the Red, White and Blue Picnic. One of the organizers of the event, Owensboro Chamber of Commerce President Jody Wassmer, says this is how they bring the voters and candidates together.

"This is a way that we bring the candidates out and let them meet the people," Wassmer says, "Good [old] fashioned political stump speeches.  That is what we're all about."

Candidates running for offices ranging from local commission seats to the governor of Kentucky use the Red White and Blue Picnic as a platform to deliver their message directly to voters who will determine the outcome of midterm elections.

Kentucky, says Wassmer, has traditionally voted for Democratic candidates.

"It's a very conservative Democratic state, and the Republicans have made a lot of inroads here in recent years."

Voter anger

One such Republican is Senate candidate Rand Paul, who defeated a popular candidate supported by the national Republican Party in Kentucky's primary elections in May.  He successfully tapped into voter anger over bank and auto industry bailouts, and an expansion of health care coverage.

He has the support of the Tea Party, which would like to see less government and lower taxes, something Paul says he strongly supports.

"I think a country grows by getting government out of the way," says Paul. "Government isn't the solution. Government needs to get out of the way to let private business thrive.  Private business and industry is the solution," he says.

Palin influence

Paul's primary election victory in May, fueled by the endorsement of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, reinforced the power of the Tea Party movement.

Across the United States, Tea Party support for senate candidates such as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Sharon Engle in Nevada have changed the face of the Republican Party by defeating more mainstream candidates. But their victories have also raised questions about whether or not their message will appeal to a broader voter base in November general election.  

Democrats are also looking at some of these candidates as a liability to the Republicans in their effort to regain a majority in the House of Representative and Senate on November 2.

Reshaping political system

Doug Schoen is the author of Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking our Two-Party System.

"While the Tea Party movement has, at this point, quite substantial disdain for the Democrats, it has almost equal disdain for the Republicans," Schoen said.

Even though Tea Party voters generally do not support incumbents, regardless of party, Schoen sees their influence helping the Republicans in November.

"I think it will be a pretty big victory this November and it is largely if not entirely being driven by the Tea Party movement, a movement that really 18, 19, 20 months ago, or certainly two years ago when President Obama was running, there was not a person in the world, certainly not in this town who was ever thinking that any movement like the Tea Party could come into existence, much less have the impact that it has," says Schoen.

Tea Party boost?

According to recent CNN-Time magazine poll of registered voters in Kentucky, Rand Paul is tied with his Democrat rival Jack Conway. Conway did not attend the Red White and Blue Picnic, but supporters campaigning on his behalf tried to paint Rand Paul as an extremist candidate unable to best represent Kentucky Voters.

But Jody Wassmer thinks Paul's support of business in Western Kentucky, and his opposition to environmental legislation commonly referred to as "Cap and Trade," may give him the edge in this part of the country come November.

"This is coal country, and we have a lot of low cost coal powered plants, and 'cap and trade' is aimed squarely at those plants," says Wassmer. "Businesses that are struggling through this economy don't want to see their rates go up, that's an issue Rand Paul comes down very well on."

Conway and Paul have agreed to three debates throughout October, which will give each of the candidates a chance to further reach out to voters in the weeks leading up to the midterm elections.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs