DALLAS — Rep. Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who just lost his seat to political newcomer Ted Yoho, is having what we in Texas might call a “Dewhurst’’ moment.
One minute he’s the invincible Republican with the multimillion-dollar war chest, the next he’s the latest scalp in the tea party’s war on incumbents.
Ted Cruz did it to Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary runoff election for a U.S. Senate seat in July.
And now Yoho, a veterinarian, squeaked by with 34.3 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, compared to 33.1 percent for Stearns.
Like the Texas race, the flow of campaign contributions proved to be a poor indicator of how the vote would go on Election Day.
Dewhurst outraised Cruz by more than 2 to 1 (including a sizable infusion from his own bank account). In the Florida congressional contest, Stearns had $2 million on hand in the late stages of the campaign, compared to Yoho’s $130,000.
But unlike Dewhurst, Stearns had a national platform as chairman of the key House and Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He used it to maximum effect to antagonize the Obama White House over its support of loan guarantees for the bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra.
And Stearns’s investigation of Planned Parenthood — specifically, to see whether federal money had been spent on abortions in the past decade — was the trigger for the ill-fated decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop funding the organization earlier this year.
Although Komen reversed itself three days later amid an outcry from supporters, the breast cancer nonprofit is still digging out of the ensuing political and organizational rubble.
Komen CEO Nancy Brinker announced the other day that she’s stepping aside, along with two board members and the president. Fundraising has been down in places across the country.
Aside from the collateral damage to Komen, Stearns’s Planned Parenthood investigation is considered “Exhibit A’’ by those who say there’s a war on women during this election season.
Those factors may not have hurt Stearns in his district, but they evidently didn’t help much, either.
Nor did the endorsement of the Florida Times Union, which said Stearns deserved another term in the newly redrawn district based on his solid conservative credentials.
The newspaper said Yoho claimed that his greatest public accomplishment was his wife and kids.
Apparently, that outweighed all the heat Stearns directed at President Obama and Planned Parenthood.
In the end, Stearns was stuck with the label of “24-year incumbent.’’ His defeat is yet another sign that in 2012, that trumps everything.
Lori Stahl is a Dallas-based reporter who covers politics and culture. Follow her on Twitter @LoriStahl.