wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

GOP freshmen = weak tea

at 03:58 PM ET, 05/15/2012

Surprise, surprise: The Republican freshman class isn’t as tea party-friendly as you might think.

We’ve written before on this blog about how the tea party label has been misappropriated to cover all kinds of Republicans who won in 2010. While many latched onto the label or simply let others define them as such, the label wasn’t a great fit for many of them.


Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) may not be the tea partier you think he is. (Doug Murray/Reuters)

Suddenly, establishment Republicans who embraced conservative causes and opposed President Obama’s health-care legislation became known as tea partiers. John Boehner even called himself one.

Alas, most of them are not tea partiers. And supporters of the tea party movement are starting to take notice.

Case in point: the conservative Club for Growth issued a scorecard of the GOP freshmen class today and concluded that many of them haven’t lived up to their tea party billing.

“After a careful review to see if their records match their rhetoric, the Club for Growth has found that, for many of the freshman Republicans, promises of fiscal responsibility have proven to be empty,” the club wrote in a release.

Overall, the club found that the freshmen voted with the fiscally conservative point of view an average of 71 percent of the time — only slightly higher than other incumbent Republicans, who toed the line 69 percent of the time. Only three had perfect scores — Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Raul Labrador (Idaho) — and a dozen freshmen voted with the tea party less than half the time, according to the votes deemed important by the Club for Growth.

(For a review of all the freshmen and their scores, see here.)

Perhaps most illustrative: The club notes the reputed tea party favorite, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), scored just 64 percent.

It’s hard to think of a better illustration of the misunderstanding of the tea party label than West. Yes, he rode that enthusiasm to victory and has been among the most outspoken conservatives in the House.

But as the club scorecard shows, that doesn’t mean he’s voted like a tea partier all the time. In fact, he ranked in the bottom half of the freshman class.

(It should be noted that West, like other Republicans who scored low, comes from a swing district.)

“The liberal media likes to pretend that these Republicans have fought for fiscally conservative policies, but the facts don’t support their thesis,” said club President Chris Chocola. “Just because the Republicans have a majority does not mean that more pro-growth policies have been passed.”

As we wrote this morning, the Nebraska GOP Senate primary tonight is likely to be the latest example of the tea party label being misapplied — particularly if state Sen. Deb Fischer wins.

Fischer is a conservative Republican, of course, but her opponents have noted that she voted in favor of a gas tax increase, for example, that is hardly ideal by tea party standards. Indeed, many in the tea party community opted to support state Treasurer Don Stenberg early on in the primary.

If the club scorecard is any indication, the tea party label has been wielded far too loosely for the past three years to describe basically any insurgent or very conservative candidate, even when they might not be true, hard-line tea party supporters. (And the tea party, if nothing else, is hard-line.)

“The freshmen were viewed as this monolith, and this is the result,” said one Republican campaign strategist granted anonymity to discuss the freshman class candidly.

 
Read what others are saying