Video: Tea Party, Palin ‘spark plugs’ in GOP engine

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    >>> margaret hooper is a conservative commentator. good morning to both of you. let's branch out. christine o'donnell, she lost, sharon angle lost, when you look at all of that and you balance it out, where does her influence stand at this point?

    >> i think her influence is deep and wide in the republican party . she got the tea party going and she in turn got the republican party going. even though she lost some big ones like christine o'donnell who if some republicans had won delaware they would be taking over the senate right now. her good friend nikki haley where there's a republican primary in 2012 is going to be residing over that state.

    >> palilinpalin's influence is still very much there. how much do endorsements really matter? remember when the kennedys came out and endorsed barack obama over hillary clinton early on, there's a question of how much does endorsement really matter?

    >> does it move the party too far to the right?

    >> that's going to be determined in congress. the story now is going to be whether the republican leadership, whether mitch mcconnell in the senate or john boehner in the house can take the energy of the tea party . we don't know the answer to that question. it's going to depend on the personalities and the policy that is pursue over the next few months.

    >> there's an influx of candidates coming in and he has a very good plan to incorporate everyone. it was a big wakeup call . there are some mixed results. rand paul, marco rubio , fabulous candidates did very very well.

    >> let's see what happens when all those tea party candidates get together. they haven't all met together. they're going to get together in washington for the first time.

    >> is sarah palin the defacto leader of the republican party ?

    >> she's the defacto -- it's going to be interesting if they get one in congress.

    >> 650 organizations plus all over the country doesn't have one leader. so sarah palin certainly -- i agree with you, she makes a lot of headlines, a lot of people turn to her, but she is not the leader.

    >> you have a lot of discussion among established republicans who say they are worried about sarah palin running in 2012 . they think it will be very bad for their party. how do they balance the influence that she has with their concern for what she might do to the party?

    >> they want the energy that she represents. but in the national poll, in general election races, she's a disaster. but they also have other candidates they're pursuing. one reason you're hearing all the anonymous comments about sarah palin is they have other horses they're riding.

    >> the republican establishment cannot take a candidate. the republican party are going to pick their candidates not the establishment.

By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 11/3/2010 10:00:28 AM ET 2010-11-03T14:00:28

The Tea Party movement proved to be an important factor in Republican victories in some states – but exit poll data raised the question of whether Tea Party and “conservative” are pretty much interchangeable labels in the minds of voters.

Exit poll data indicate that 41 percent of those voting in House races Tuesday said they support the Tea Party. Thirty-one percent of voters said they oppose the Tea Party. And a quarter of voters take no position on the Tea Party one way or the other.

    1. National overview
    2. Full Senate results
    3. Key House results
    4. Full Gubernatorial results

Those associating with the Tea Party voted overwhelmingly Republican this year, backing GOP candidates over Democrats by a margin of 87 percent to 11 percent.

As a percentage of the total electorate, the Tea Party contingent ranged from a high of 47 percent in Texas to a low of 32 percent in California and 26 percent in Hawaii.

Nationally in House races, the Tea Party movement gave a boost to Republican candidates in some districts.

The movement does not have the negative image that the Republican Party itself has: Only 31 percent of voters said they opposed the Tea Party movement, while 53 percent said they had an unfavorable image of the GOP.

Nearly all Tea Party Republicans feel the government is involved in too many things and as a first step, 92 percent want the health care overhaul repealed. Tea Party Republicans are also overwhelmingly opposed to same sex marriage – 84 percent are against it. And two thirds of them say that the economic stimulus hurt the country.

PhotoBlog: Faces of the Tea Party

Non-Tea Party Republicans share similar views, but with less intensity. Two thirds think the government is involved in too many things and the health care law should be repealed – compared to more than 9-in-10 Tea Party GOPers. A smaller majority of 65 percent are against same sex marriage. 

And just 40 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans say that the stimulus bill hurt the country.

In Indiana — where the Republicans picked up a Democratic-held Senate seat — 45 percent told exit poll interviewers that they supported the Tea Party movement. (Indiana narrowly backed President Barack Obama for president in 2008.)

The vast majority of those people said they voted for Republican Senate candidate Dan Coats – even though Indiana Tea Party leaders such as Tom Grimes of South Bend had disparaged Coats back in the spring as a “country club” establishment Republican who was hand-picked to run for the Senate seat by party chieftains in Washington D.C. Tea Party Indianans favored either Marlin Stutzman, who won a House seat Tuesday in Indiana, or former Rep. John Hostettler. Coats defeated both of them in the primary.

Coats — a former senator, one-time lobbyist and former envoy to Germany — does not fit the Tea Party ideal of a fiery grassroots populist untainted by the compromises and favor-swapping in the nation’s capitol.

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But even if Coats is no Rand Paul — the Tea Party favorite who won the Kentucky Senate race — ultimately Coats' establishment image did not really matter. Faced with a choice between him and Democrat Brad Ellsworth, 84 percent of Tea Party voters opted for Coats.

In Pennsylvania, where Republican Pat Toomey defeated Democrat Joe Sestak, Tea Party supporters accounted for 39 percent of the electorate and, as in Indiana, 89 percent of them backed the Republican.

Toomey fits the Tea Party mold: He is fiscally conservative and is former head of the small-government, low-tax advocacy group the Club for Growth.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the kind of accommodating, fiscally liberal Republican whom Tea Party activists despise, made it easy for Republicans by quitting the party last year to run as a Democrat.

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Specter had beaten Toomey in a GOP primary six years ago. Specter lost the Democratic primary to Sestak.

Video: David Gregory: Tea Party is elephant in room (on this page)

Toomey won 89 percent of Tea Party supporters and an identical 89 percent of self-described conservatives.

Among the one quarter of Pennsylvania voters who were neutral about the Tea Party. Toomey and Sestak split them, 50/50.

In Wisconsin where conservative businessman Ron Johnson was projected by NBC News to defeat Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, Tea Party supporters accounted for 36 percent of the electorate. And the conservative-Tea Party overlap seemed to be about the same as in Pennsylvania: Johnson won 88 percent of Tea Party supporters and 88 percent of self-identified conservative voters.

Almost identical results turned up in Missouri, where Rep. Roy Blunt was projected by NBC News to be the winner of the Senate contest over Democrat Robin Carnahan. Whether voters called themselves Tea Party or conservative, they backed Blunt.

And as with Coats in Indiana, Blunt is not the perfect Tea Party hero: as former House GOP Whip he helped round up the Republican votes to pass the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program — the Wall Street bailout that small government types see as the ultimate in government interventionism. Nationally, nine in 10 Tea Party supporters want to limit government, saying it is doing too much; only 8 percent think government should play a bigger role.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Photos: Faces of the Tea Party — In their own words

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  1. Don Nunemaker, 61, Plymouth, Ind., retired Air Force officer and part-time pastor, is co-founder of "We the People," a Tea Party group in Marshall and Fulton Counties.

    “(It) started during the Bush era. I was not tickled by the Patriot Act. … I was also very unhappy with the attack in Iraq. … But that wasn’t enough to get me off my chair. …

    “When Obama emerged … he was talking as a moderate … (but) there was a total lack of transparency even though Obama said he would have the most transparent administration ever. …. One of his czars was a Communist. … What is a Communist doing in the American government? That was the last straw.

    “I would hope that political candidates ... will pay a little more attention about what the American people are saying. … We pay too much attention to minority voices… We’re not talking about race or skin color. … It’s (people) with a political agenda that is adverse to American well-being. Like Communists … like the unions.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Tom Grimes, 66, South Bend, Ind., retired stock broker and insurance sales rep. Grimes, standing aboard a bus bound for a Tea Party-affiliated rally in Indianapolis, founded St. Joe County Tea Party Patriots.

    “(My inspiration) is Glenn Beck primarily. I listened to him for several years before he was famous. It’s like taking a class from the most fascinating professor you’ve ever had.

    “The government cannot control things. … It’s what the Communists tried to do. ... That’s what Obama is trying to do. We are going to build windmills, we are going to build these little cars and if people don’t buy them we will raise gas prices to $25 a gallon. … We should have let (the banks) collapse. … We might have had a tremendously deep recession, but at least we’d be heading out of it.”

    “I want to see a drastic change in government -- smaller, with more authority back in the states. … I see no reason we need a Department of Education. ... We don’t need an EPA.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Hursel and Ebony Williams of Indianapolis, shown at a Tea Party rally on Oct. 16. Hursel, 40, is a video tech at a cable company; Ebony, 35, is an independent computer consultant. They say they are not Tea Party members, but sympathize with some of its positions.

    Ebony Williams: “We feel… that it is our duty as Christians to stand up for what is right.

    "Constitutionalists stand for the little man and for what Christ stands for – the right to be treated fairly, equally."

    Hursel Williams: “We've often been hoodwinked. … Things are often not as we were raised to believe.

    "I would like to see (the Tea Party movement) cause an awakening for people ... that people will seek truth.

    "I had a preconceived notion (that the Tea Party is racist). … I have felt nothing but love and talk about Christ. … I would bring my children to this." (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kent Hizer, 49, a mechanical engineer from Mishawaka, Ind., who works in industrial product sales and as a volunteer policeman. He is running for Penn Township Board as a Republican.

    “I consider myself a conservative, fiscally and socially. … But I have a hard time classifying myself as a Republican because I think they have lost their way.

    “What interested me (in the Tea Party) … is I felt we were moving farther and farther away from basic constitutional law, and giving up freedoms. ….

    “I’m on a mission to hold elected officials accountable, locally and up the food chain. “I want to get people re-engaged no matter what party they are. … We have this precious gift … the right to vote … but people take it for granted. … There’s all this bravado -- ‘Vote the bums out!’ – but voter turnout locally is in the 20-30 percent range. …

    “The Tea Party has started to take some of that back.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Lenn “Curley” Gapinski, 58, retired mechanical engineer. He and his wife, Cheryl, own a vineyard and winery outside Monticello, Ind. He is a member of the White County Tea Party Patriots and teaches members about the U.S. Constitution.

    “It was during the bank bailouts that people became quite angry, and people started uniting through the Internet and saying, ‘Hey, we are taxed enough already.’

    “When we started organizing, the word ‘tea’ meant ‘taxed enough already.’ Everyone brings their own personal complaints, but that’s the core of it."

    Gapinski wants a flat tax to replace the current progressive income tax: “Forty-eight percent of the people in this country do not pay any federal income tax -- they are happy as pigs in mud. If everyone had to pay the same (percentage), everyone would have the same amount of anger, and they would hold the government accountable.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Emery McClendon, 59, FedEx courier, disabled veteran and a founder of the Patriot Resistance in Fort Wayne, Ind.

    “I grew up in a very Democratic household where they would break your neck if you voted any other way. … It was only when I got older that people started to challenge me -- they said you’re more of a Reagan Republican. I started to research it, and discovered that yes, I am. …

    “A lot of people in the movement were very disappointed with the reckless spending of George W. Bush … but at that time we weren’t feeling threatened by a person who wants to destroy the country… (and) laws that rip the freedom from under our feet.

    “Taking over the banking system, automotive industry, health care -- that’s totally un-American. … “(Obama) continues to spend, spend, spend. All these “czars” in cabinet positions … are really far-out, left-thinking people. … (Americans) now see the threat, because it’s out in the open and they are resisting.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Cosgray family of Monticello, Ind. (left to right, Nichole, 16; Rachel, 20; Laura, 47; Sam, 48; Tyler, 25, holding daughter Bella; Alex, 27, and wife, Amanda, 24). Sam works at Caterpiller. Laura, who works part-time at a local school and has recruited dozens of people to join the White County Tea Party Patriots.

    Laura Cosgray: “We bust our backs every day going to work, teaching our children values and working, and that you don’t rely on the government. ... For them to take our money … to prop up the banks that are failing because of corruption and greed … that was the tipping point right there for America.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Faith Jones, 58, of Valparaiso, Ind., co-founder of the Northwest Indiana Patriots. She works in hospitality and sales and shoots trap as a hobby.

    “One time a reporter asked me is this (movement) race based? I looked at him kind of sideways … and said, ‘What color is Congress? What color is the Senate? It’s all of those people. … It’s about ideology.

    “It’s the arrogance of these (representatives), the unlawfulness. … Who gave (the government) permission to bail out the auto industry?... I have failed many times in my life. … Failure builds character.

    “I want to stay in the United States of America, the land of the free. I don’t want to become a communist country. Where does this government have the right to make us buy or sell anything? So… the health care bill really set it off for me.

    “I think it has taken about 40 years for our government to lose the principles of our founding fathers. It will take time to get correct.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Anna Kroyman, 61, runs a distribution company from her home in Monticello, Ind., which she shares with boyfriend Jack Van Valkenburg, 65, a retired Chicago police officer.

    Kroyman: “We support conservative issues. … We’re behind (candidates) if they support these issues. … But this is not about parties anymore. Both parties need to revamp themselves.

    “We don’t endorse the candidates, we expose them. We bring them into your backyard and let you ask them about their views. Then you can be self-educated.

    “The core values (of the Tea Party) are limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets. …

    "We’re heading into a socialistic system here. What we are experiencing now is the fall of democracy. … Limited government we no longer have, fiscal responsibility we don’t have, free markets are being stripped as we speak.

    (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Christine Murdock, 86, South Bend, Ind., a former PE teacher, longtime Republican activist and a member of the St. Joseph County Tea Party Patriots. Her husband, Rawson, is a retired printing company executive.

    “The Tea Party people are so passionate. They will really get out and go door to door. … They are hard, hard workers and very interested and very friendly.”

    Because I’m so familiar with Republican politics I’ve found the people in the Tea Party are very naïve. … I’ve tried to help … them understand the structure of the whole thing.

    “They need to realize what it’s all about and they can’t be naïve and too idealistic. … But they are going to learn and they have learned.”

    “Ideally … perhaps because I’m big in the Republican party—If (the Tea Party) could kind of merge with Republicans, we would get more action and passion in both groups.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Allen Rhodes, 70 and Sally Rhodes, 68, of Avilla, Ind., at anti-“Obama Care” rally in Indianapolis on Oct. 16. The longtime Republicans say they registered as Democrats in the last election so they could for vote against Barack Obama.

    Sally Rhodes: “We were concerned before Obama was nominated (because of what they called radical associates). … Now we’re heading down a socialist path. He is a very radical progressive.”

    Allen Rhodes: “We are so concerned about losing our rights and the debt terrifies us … for our children and grandchildren.

    “And the Green movement is ridiculous. Are they taking our money to combat global warming or just lining their pockets?” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Sherry Marquelle, a singer who performs at Tea Party events. Marquelle, who also works in health care, declined to give her age or place of residence.

    “I was never politically involved until 2009 (amid the health care debate). … My daughter (6) has … a rare illness. We found out about it in January, and it’s very aggressive. … I thought, ‘How is (the change in health care) going to affect her and other children like her?”

    Marquelle visited Washington, D.C. with a group of Indiana citizens, but meetings scheduled with their representatives were instead attended by aides. Marquelle returned disappointed and angry, and wrote a song, “Hot Mama, listen up Big G.”

    “I’m a baby-holdin,’ gun totin,’ fire breathing dragon. …” the lyrics say. “Don’t tread on me cause there’ll be hell to pay.”

    “There’s a whole group of us conservative singers going around trying to get our country back through music.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Emily Daniels, 18, a freshman at Bethel College in South Bend, Ind. She is a Republican and has attended some Tea Party events. She is doing door-to-door campaigning for Duane Beals, a Republican running for state representative.

    “I am … a Christian, a conservative and a Republican in that order. I want to support candidates that uphold these values.

    “The Tea Party is a great movement because it is a group of people that supports conservative candidates and intends to hold these people to what they claim to stand for.”

    “I think it's important for people to get involved because many of the freedoms that are the very reason our grandparents came to this country (are) slipping away. Besides that, my generation and I are going into adulthood with almost $39,000 dollars of debt on my head because of money the government has spent!” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Kody Linville, 23, of Kendalville, Ind., is a member of a “9-12 group,” which espouses “nine principles and 12 values” and largely aligns philosophically with Tea Party groups.

    “In high school I was interested in the gun issue, and joined the NRA. I registered to vote as soon as possible. After high school, a friend was killed in Iraq in 2007, (and) I started paying attention to other issues. … I started researching why we entered the war and (learning about) our individual liberties.

    “One of our nine principles is that we are the authority over our lives, not the government.… They don’t have the authority to mandate that I buy health insurance.

    “The outcome I would like to see (from this movement) is a government limited by the Constitution as intended by the founders. That we will let people do as they want within the Constitution. … Also, for people of any political persuasion to listen to candidates and get involved.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, 29, and Mollie Thomas, 30, of Indianapolis, attended the anti-“Obama care” event on Oct. 16 to explore the Tea Party movement. Mollie teaches ballet and Jonathan is a “media entrepreneur/urban missionary.”

    Jonathan Thomas: “We are trying to find out how we can best navigate the social and political waters and stay true to our religious convictions.”

    Mollie Thomas: “I’ve always been restless with the Republican party, but stayed because of moral convictions. … I’m very excited about (the idea of) smaller government control. I don’t like Obama care. I’d like more decisions made on the state and local level.”

    Jonathan Thomas: “I find hope in the fact that more people are finding a voice in a movement -- this one or others. I don’t believe we can have enough political parties to represent everyone in this very diverse nation. “ (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Karen Virgin, 47, of Lowell, Ind., who works in manufacturing and is a member of the Northwest Indiana Patriots, attended the anti-“Obama Care” rally in Indianapolis on Oct. 16.

    “Obama care is a big concern. … We have a “Cadillac” health care plan at our (factory). We really value it, and it isn’t looking good (under the health care bill.)

    “I realized this country is losing its freedoms and has to get back to the Constitution. The government is too big.

    “I try to spread the word among co-workers. … So people recognized the rights that we are in fact losing. It’s not about a political party. I’m disappointed in the whole political system.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Friends Ben Dallas, 33, left, and Brandon White, 32, both from Kendalville, Ind., attended the anti-“Obama Care” rally on Oct. 16 in Indianapolis. Dallas is in the U.S. Army; White works in retail.

    Dallas: “I’m not part of an organization; this is my second (Tea Party) event. I agree with the principles of the Tea Party -- especially less government. … In principle, I disagree with the health care (bill) and believe it opens the door for a single payer (system) and that’s when the quality really goes down.”

    White: “I am not too involved (with the Tea Party) but I stop by local groups. … They inform people on legislation and candidates. … I would like to see more people involved and slowly see the power go from the federal government to the states. … There is no way somebody in Washington, D.C., knows best what I need here in Indiana.”

    (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Dick Mechling, 68, is retired from the pharmaceutical industry. He and his wife, Mickey, live on 10 acres near Lakeville, Ind. They are active in the St. Joe County Tea Party Patriots and are campaigning for Jackie Walorski, Republican candidate for Congress.

    “Politically we have not been active until now.

    “The thing that probably energized us … was Sarah Palin’s (appearance) in the last election. … Here is somebody who thinks more like we do. … She just seems like plain folks.

    “I see the Tea Party as a kind of like an educational thing. I think we have lost sight of what the government’s role -- according to the Constitution -- should be in our lives. … The Constitution was written to protect us from our government. The founding fathers knew that government … would be inclined to get wild with their power. So they limited their power. As you can see the Constitution is being trampled on daily by our president and Congress.” (James Cheng / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Pastor Donald Nunemaker
    James Cheng / msnbc.com
    Above: Slideshow (18) Faces of the Tea Party – In their own words
  2. Image: John Kasich
    Tony Dejak / AP
    Slideshow (35) Election night

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