DNC Chair (and former Virginia governor) Tim Kaine issued the following statement following the defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) this weekend by Tea Party activists and others from the hard right who thought Bennett was not conservative enough.
Today the Tea Party strengthened its hold on the Republican Party by ousting Utah’s Senator Bob Bennett from the primary. That the Tea Party would consider Bob Bennett – one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate – too liberal, just goes to show how extreme the Tea Party is. This is just the latest battle in the corrosive Republican intra-party civil war that has resulted in the Tea Party devouring two Republicans in just as many weeks. If there was any question before, there should now be no doubt that the Republican leadership has handed the reigns to the Tea Party.
By the way, Progressive Punch rates Bennett as the 81st most progressive U.S. Senator, not much different than Jon Kyl (#78), Orrin Hatch (#79), Sam Brownback (#82), Michael Enzi (#84), Jim Inhofe (#86) and Jim DeMint (#87). The point is, if Bob Bennett isn’t conservative enough for the Tea Party, then basically noone in the GOP is. In short, the Tea Party appears to be the monster that could cause the GOP to self destruct. As the saying goes, if you play with matches, you’re likely to get burned…
P.S. Spelling note to Tim Kaine; it should be “reins” not “reigns.”
UPDATE: See Chris Cillizza’s article on the “Bob Bennett fallout.” According to Cillizza, Bennett’s loss “sets off alarm bells across the chamber as Members contemplate their own fates.” Cillizza adds that this is “especially true on the Republican side where the rise of the Tea Party movement has put establishment politicians on notice.” Cillizza quotes Republican strategist Ed Rogers pointing to Bennett’s loss as “proof that the tea party movement is huge presence in the GOP organization.” I agree with Cillizza and Rogers on all these points.