Movement's plans for 2010 put Republicans in a bind


In an effort to scuttle health reform legislation, the Tea Party movement is planning to storm Senate offices next week and launch a sit-in where protesters will pretend to be patients waiting for treatment at a government-run hospital.

"The intention is to go inside the Senate offices and hallways, and play out the role of patients waiting for treatment in government controlled medical facilities," states an announcement on the Tax Day Tea Party Web site. "As the day goes on some of us will pretend to die from our untreated illnesses and collapse on the floor. Many of us plan to stay there until they force us to leave."

Organizers made it clear the point of the protest is to demonstrate that the will of health care reform opponents isn't weakening as the Senate inches forward on a compromise on health care.

"Some [senators] are under the false impression that we’ve given up and gone away just because they haven’t heard much from us in the past few days," the rally announcement reads. "And those senators who have not made a final decision on how to vote are in danger of leaning in the wrong direction. We must remind them that our steadfast opposition to a government takeover of health care is as strong now as it has been all along."

The Washington Post on Thursday reported on an "energized" Tea Party movement's plans to challenge both Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Buoyed by their success in capsizing a moderate Republican candidate this fall in Upstate New York, tea party activists and affiliated groups are unveiling new political action committees and tactics aimed at capitalizing on conservative opposition to health-care reform, financial bailouts and other Obama administration policies. The goal is to harness the anger that led to hundreds of protests around the country from spring to fall, including a gathering of tens of thousands of protesters on the Mall in September.

Political observers have noted that the Tea Party movement could spell bad news for Republicans. If the Tea Party movement succeeds in getting conservative Republicans elected in the primaries, the Republicans may have a harder time picking up the support of independent voters. Or, as was the case in the special election for New York's 23rd congressional district this fall, Republicans could see the conservative voting base split between two candidates.

A Rasmussen poll released Monday shows a potential Tea Party beating the Republicans, with 23 percent support to the Republicans' 18 percent. The Democratic Party was far ahead, with 36 percent support in the theoretical match-up.

The Post notes that Tea Party organizers are hoping to model their success on Barack Obama's online-based model of raising small donations from large numbers of supporters.

"We're looking at the potential of raising small checks from a vast number of donors, just as Obama did," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe told the Post. "We've been studying everything about the Obama primary strategy, and I happen to think the Tea Party movement could make even the Obama grass-roots machine look obsolete."

But before the Tea Party can coalesce into a single political entity, it will likely have to pare down the number of independent groups behind it, and those groups will have to stop fighting amongst themselves. The Post reports:

The tea party movement is splintered into hundreds of local and state-level groups that have differing rules and goals and for the most part have not participated in big-money politics. Many of the groups have been torn apart by personal feuds in recent months; one major umbrella organization, the Tea Party Patriots, has filed a lawsuit against a founding board member who signed on with a rival, the Tea Party Express.