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Tea Party Rules in Florida

By KATHLEEN HAUGHNEY The News Service of Florida
Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.
The Tea Party movement muscled its way into the American political psyche over the past year with huge rallies, angry voters and colorful rhetoric. It is not clear how much voters are responding, but in Florida, at least, the Republican Party appears to have taken notice.

Nearly all of the statewide candidates on the GOP ticket have embraced — and been embraced by — the Tea Party movement, the group of disenfranchised, mostly conservative voters who paraded the call for a change from the status quo over the past year, spurred at least in part by opposition to federal health care reform and the Obama administration in general.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott has sounded Tea Party themes and showcased Tea Party paraphernalia on his campaign tour bus.
Senate nominee Marco Rubio became the immediate darling of the movement.
And the woman who is arguably the Tea Party movement’s leader, Sarah Palin, is stumping for attorney general candidate Pam Bondi.
The result is a party slate that is more conservative than others in recent history. In 2006, Gov. Charlie Crist topped the ticket, putting a political moderate at the head of the Republican Party.
While the more formal Tea Party itself may not have actually convinced any candidates to run as representatives of that party, political scientist Susan MacManus argues the group had a strong impact nonetheless, dictating the issues that GOP candidates have taken on, and even the tone with which they have campaigned.
“A lot of these candidates had to adjust their message and go much more anti-Washington, much more anti-spending; a lot of them adjusted quickly,” said MacManus, of the University of South Florida. “The Tea Party has really forced a lot of these candidates to address their issues.
“I think the Tea Party movement per se isn’t big enough to elect candidates, but they have been loud enough to affect who gets re-elected and who gets tossed,” MacManus said.
The GOP did not really have a choice, said Fred O’Neal, chairman of the Florida
The Tea Party movement muscled its way into the American political psyche over the past year with huge rallies, angry voters and colorful rhetoric. It is not clear how much voters are responding, but in Florida, at least, the Republican Party appears to have taken notice.

Nearly all of the statewide candidates on the GOP ticket have embraced — and been embraced by — the Tea Party movement, the group of disenfranchised, mostly conservative voters who paraded the call for a change from the status quo over the past year, spurred at least in part by opposition to federal health care reform and the Obama administration in general.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott has sounded Tea Party themes and showcased Tea Party paraphernalia on his campaign tour bus.
Senate nominee Marco Rubio became the immediate darling of the movement.
And the woman who is arguably the Tea Party movement’s leader, Sarah Palin, is stumping for attorney general candidate Pam Bondi.
The result is a party slate that is more conservative than others in recent history. In 2006, Gov. Charlie Crist topped the ticket, putting a political moderate at the head of the Republican Party.
While the more formal Tea Party itself may not have actually convinced any candidates to run as representatives of that party, political scientist Susan MacManus argues the group had a strong impact nonetheless, dictating the issues that GOP candidates have taken on, and even the tone with which they have campaigned.
“A lot of these candidates had to adjust their message and go much more anti-Washington, much more anti-spending; a lot of them adjusted quickly,” said MacManus, of the University of South Florida. “The Tea Party has really forced a lot of these candidates to address their issues.
“I think the Tea Party movement per se isn’t big enough to elect candidates, but they have been loud enough to affect who gets re-elected and who gets tossed,” MacManus said.
The GOP did not really have a choice, said Fred O’Neal, chairman of the Florida Tea Party. The movement has taken off and pulled in a lot of people the Republicans need to vote for them, he argues.
“I think the debt, the size of government, the Obama-care, it activated a lot of people that otherwise would have been sitting at home watching ‘American Idol,'” O’Neal said.
As the state Republican Party has pushed to the right, moderates, most notably Crist, have been pushed aside. Crist has exiled himself from the party altogether, and is now an independent.
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said the Tea Party movement was simply a “rebranding” of the Republican base that could disenfranchise the average, more moderate Florida voter. In the state, there are more than 3.9 million registered Republicans, 4.6 million registered Democrats, 2.1 million registered without party affiliation and 356,729 registered in minor parties.
“It’s clear that the Republicans have nominated nothing but the most extremist elements of their party,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.
State GOP leaders have largely embraced the ideals and values of the Tea Party movement, said GOP spokeswoman Katie Betta. But the party wants to emphasize that there is still room for moderates, she said.

. The movement has taken off and pulled in a lot of people the Republicans need to vote for them, he argues.a Tea Part
“I think the debt, the size of government, the Obama-care, it activated a lot of people that otherwise would have been sitting at home watching ‘American Idol,'” O’Neal said.
As the state Republican Party has pushed to the right, moderates, most notably Crist, have been pushed aside. Crist has exiled himself from the party altogether, and is now an independent.
A spokesman for the state Democratic Party said the Tea Party movement was simply a “rebranding” of the Republican base that could disenfranchise the average, more moderate Florida voter. In the state, there are more than 3.9 million registered Republicans, 4.6 million registered Democrats, 2.1 million registered without party affiliation and 356,729 registered in minor parties.
“It’s clear that the Republicans have nominated nothing but the most extremist elements of their party,” said state Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.
State GOP leaders have largely embraced the ideals and values of the Tea Party movement, said GOP spokeswoman Katie Betta. But the party wants to emphasize that there is still room for moderates, she said.

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