The Worst Thing You Can Call Erick Erickson: 'Establishment'

In Tea Party parlance, it's a dirty word

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The Tea Party war brewing over at the conservative website Redstate just hit an inflection point: someone called someone else "establishment"! That's the barb pinned on Redstate managing editor Erick Erickson by his newly-found enemy Jamie Radtke, a Tea Party candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. In a press release this afternoon, Radtke calls Erickson a member of the "Washington Establishment" trying "to destroy the tea party." It's an interesting method of fighting Erickson, given that he's staked his claim on getting hard-right Tea Party candidates elected to office such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. But could it be effective?

As we explained yesterday, the dispute between Erickson and Radtke began after Erickson pulled his initial support for Radtke. Erickson had told Radtke privately in an email that he had to stop supporting her because his bosses at Eagle Publishing were "socially connected" to former Virginia Sen. George Allen who's running against Radtke for the senate seat. But after that email was published by Ben Smith at Politico, Erickson insisted he wasn't influenced by his bosses, but that he had realized on his own how miserable of a candidate Radtke was, going so far as to suggest she was drunk while giving a speech at a conservative gathering in a blog post yesterday. That's what Radtke was responding to today in her statement:

“Erick’s blog goes beyond the pale,” Radtke stated. “He crossed the line by publishing complete falsehoods. Now, it is his responsibility to admit he did wrong, set the record straight and apologize – and that is what I am asking Erick to do.

“This kind of scurrilous behavior and treatment has been repeatedly carried out on tea party leaders and conservative candidates who dare challenge the good ‘ole boy Washington Establishment. This attempt by the Washington Establishment to destroy the tea party and their candidates must stop. Enough is enough.

Though no one would've dreamed to call Erick Erickson "establishment" a few years ago, the conservative firebrand may find himself increasingly vulnerable to the charge from Tea Partiers as he becomes more influential in the mainstream media. His ascension to CNN "political contributor" in March was the first step. Following the hire, CNN's Howard Kurtz confronted him with a number of wildly partisan comments like calling Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy" and calling retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f##king child molester," to which he expressed remorse saying "I had to grow up in how I write."  He's also been increasingly helpful to mainstream Republicans, as Nick Ayers, who ran Tim Pawlenty's 2012 presidential campaign, told The Washington Post last month. "I found that by simply reaching out, making clear your goals and plans, he was often a team player and brought energy, excitement, and money to candidates he would get behind,” said Ayers. It's yet to be seen if Radtke's claims will stick to Erickson. As for whether they will help her candidacy, The Washington Post's Ben Pershing is dubious:

What’s not clear is whether engaging in such a high-profile spat with Erickson will do much to help Radtke build support.

Radtke has portrayed herself as the anti-establishment candidate, so alleging some sort of conspiracy by Allen supporters could fit into that storyline. But Erickson is also widely read by conservative activists, and his sharply negative words about her campaign probably won’t be helpful.

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