Mississippi native political consultant Austin Barbour was in Arkansas this weekend. He stopped to speak at the Clinton School of Public Service on his way to Fayetteville for some sort of football event. I am guessing the Little Rock speech was the highlight of his trip. But anyway…
His speech was a great insider’s look at the fierce Mississippi Senate primary between incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger, State Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran narrowly won the June runoff.
Barbour was a consultant for the Cochran campaign and had quite a bit of advice based on his experience. One part that stuck out to me was his warning to the Tea Party movement, which he says is in danger of being taken over by outside groups.
“Sadly, I see the Tea Party taken over – particularly at the national level, which pulls into these local levels – by political operatives mostly just trying to make a quick dollar,” cautioned Barbour. “There are some Tea Party national groups that were raising millions of dollars – it’s fair to say – and they were spending 85% of their money on overhead with 15% of their money getting out to candidates. That’s ridiculous. We have folks at the national level that are focused on making money and they weren’t focused on the issues that made us so powerful in 2010 with fiscal issues. That’s what worked in 2010. And they didn’t care about winning general elections.”
So what should be done about it? Barbour offers this advice.
“We have great folks involved in the Tea Party. There are a lot of Tea Party folks who voted for Thad Cochran – no question about it. But they need to take back over the Tea Party at the local level,” said Barbour. He argued that local folks focused on issues that their communities care about need to retake the power in these local groups, away from national outside well-funded organizations.
It’s timely advice for Arkansas.
Republicans swept into office with major victories this November and now control the entire federal Arkansas delegation, all statewide offices, and have strong majorities in both statehouse chambers.
Although conservatives were mostly united in their support for Republicans this year particularly in November, signs of division are beginning to show. Well-funded conservative interests groups are already attempting to fracture the new Republican majorities ahead of the upcoming state legislative session. I would link to them, but I honestly don’t want to give them any more attention. And I am not talking about the usual whipping boy of the liberals – American for Prosperity. Some of these new groups almost make AFP look moderate, if that is possible.
Hopefully, we can avoid the bitter battles Mississippi just saw, but that will not happen by itself. You are already seeing hard-core conservatives like Rep. Nate Bell and Sen. Jason Rapert attacked for being too moderate. Give me a break!