What's Next for Tea Party Express?

By Chris Good

One of the biggest surprises of the 2010 election season happened Tuesday night when Christine O'Donnell took down frontrunner Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican Senate primary, showcasing the prowess of the Tea Party movement and its ability to affect elections in multiple, not necessarily conservative, states across the county.


It can mostly be attributed to the group Tea Party Express, which poured around $250,000 into the state and later attracting the endorsements of Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint. See this post for a rundown of the group's activities in Delaware.

The group is responsible for some of the bigger Tea Party election upsets this year, including the GOP Senate primary victories of Sharron Angle in the Nevada and Joe Miller. O'Donnell's win was the latest feather in its cap.

So what's next for the group?

Tea Party Express says it's not quite sure, but that it has many options open.

"There are so many races to focus on between now and November," said Sal Russo, the political consultant who formed and runs Tea Party Express, noting that the group will likely put on another nationwide bus tour.

Nevada, Delaware, and Alaska appear to be likely general-election target races for the group.

Tea Party Express is "pledged and are heavily invested in Nevada," spokesman Levi Russell said last night. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was one of the first targets Tea Party Express identified last year, and it had aired ads in Nevada attacking him even before it endorsed Angle. It is also "heavily invested" in Alaska, Russell said, indicating Tea Party Express will likely continue raising and spending money for attorney Joe Miller in the general-election contest that could, conceivably, feature a write-in campaign from vanquished Republican incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Delaware apparently figures in the group's near-term plans,as well: it just sent a fundraising email to supporters identifying "2 important races to focus on"--Nevada and Delaware, "where we must begin working right away to help Christine O'Donnell win in the General Election, just as we helped her win the primary."

The group has already put on three nationwide bus tours since the spring of 2009, and a fourth would likely help it gin up more Tea Party enthusiasm and gather more members and donations in multiple states.

The group has built its success in this election cycle on sub-$5,000 donations, the maximum it can take per person per election cycle as a federally registered PAC (political-action committee). The group says it has not taken any money from Republican PACs and that a donor base in the tens of thousands, from among its 400,000-strong membership base, has funded the group through online contributions.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/09/whats-next-for-tea-party-express/63026/