Third district primary will test "tea party" phenomenon

I view last year’s "tea party" activism primarily as a corporate-funded "astroturf" movement hyped by Fox News and conservative talk radio, but some Republicans insist the tea partiers are a real grassroots force to be reckoned with. This year’s Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district will give some indication of who’s right.

Five GOP candidates are competing for the chance to run against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell. Two of them have significant backing in the Republican establishment: various elected officials are supporting State Senator Brad Zaun, while a bunch of major donors are supporting Jim Gibbons.

Long-shot candidate Dave Funk was the first Republican to enter this race, and he announced yesterday that “Iowa Tea Party Chairman Ryan Rhodes has joined the campaign team as Political Director”:

“We are happy to have Ryan on board and feel that he is a strong addition to the campaign,” says Funk. Rhodes has led the efforts of the Tea Party in Iowa as well as well as coordinating with the National Tea Party Patriots. “Dave is the right man at the right time to bring solid leadership to Iowa’s Third District, something we have been lacking for a long time.”

As Iowa Tea Party Chairman Rhodes has coordinated many grassroots efforts across the state and helped other states fight against unchecked growth and the stranglehold of big government. “Dave isn’t just a late comer to the Tea Party for political purposes. He has been there from the beginning and I believe he is someone we can trust to be a true voice of the people for limited government in Washington.”

Funk says, “Having known and worked closely with Ryan for much of the past year, he has proven himself capable and insightful beyond his years. We are excited to have him on board as our Political Director as we go through the primary process to challenge and ultimately defeat Leonard Boswell next November restoring loyalty to our Constitution, our Liberty and the People of Iowa.”

I’m guessing that the forces funding and publicizing the national “tea party” movement won’t weigh in against two establishment candidates in this Republican primary, and Funk will therefore not be able to compete with the front-runners. On the other hand, a surprisingly strong showing for Funk in June might indicate that there is more popular support behind the “tea parties” than I imagine.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

  • I think the jury is still out...

    I would NEVER have predicted the influence would have in terms of Liberals/Dems.

    Therefore, my gut tells me that this “movement” might grow into a useful organizing tool for Conservatives/Republicans.

    But, and here is a large caveat, does this require a nationally recognized leadership to happen?

    If so, then I doubt that this will get off the ground, given the infighting as to whom controls the “Tea Party Movement” as it exists now.

    United For Peace and Justice, and International Answer have been at each others throats for the past decade, each claiming responsibility for, and leadership of, the anti-war “peace movement”.  And nationally, the anti-war movement has suffered as a result.  

    Of course, the anti-war movement, with UFPJ and Answer working together in a loose coalition at one point had the White House completely surrounded by close to 500,000 people, and there were 400 arrested at the White House in a single day back in ‘05.

    FOX chose not to broadcast that event, so the other 24 Hour “news” channels followed their lead, and it turned into a back page story.

    But if it becomes trendy to be a Tea Partier due to media promotion, then who knows what effect endorsement and support from Tea Baggers might bring?  Be interesting to see…

    • the tea party people

      remind me of that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where the guy asks, "Is this the Judean People’s Front?" and the others say, "Piss off! This is the People’s Front for Judea!"

      I also don’t think the tea party activists have demonstrated their ability to raise money for Republicans the way has raised money for Democrats.  

  • Gibbons and Funk strike me as people who just pull stuff out of the air

    Look at Gibbons tax proposal and Funk’s unlimited oil remarks and crusade against libraries which you covered brilliantly.  These two men clearly are just grasping for stuff because they don’t really understand policy or issues.

    Rees is a bit of an unknown and he may be too logical to draw a huge amount of support.  Zaun should be their nominee even though he has some clear holes in his record.    

  • Zaun clearly winning the only measureable now.....

    As Brad Zaun stated clearly in his campaign announcement, his campaign would be aggressively adopting the latest in social technology as a way to reach voters.

    It is very interesting that Zaun, even after only being in the campaign three weeks, has surpassed the number of campaign facebook friends of even Leonard Boswell, and has more than double of Funk’s and Gibbons’ combined.  This could be a strong indication of the vast personal and political popularity of Zaun, and is a good early measure of social networking success.

    I fully agree with the previous poster (moderateiadem) that some of the other candidates simply don’t understand policy or issues…if they did they would NOT be putting out those incredibly bad press releases.

    • Facebook

      Actually, Funk has over 1,400 Facebook friends.  You’re merely looking at their fan pages.  And quite honestly, Facebook fans is not an accurate depiction anyways of who will be a winner.  Nice try though Mirage, nice spin.

      • I believe Christian Fong

        had more Facebook friends than Terry Branstad. But you need money to run a campaign. Where is Funk going to get the money to make this race competitive?

      • to clarify...

        daGOPman…..I was speaking of those that actually identify themselves as "supporters" of the campaign, which is something that the supporter has to proactively do.  Note the numbers under "supporters" on the various campaign websites.

        Campaigns can have as many “friends” and add to those as they wish, however the “supporters” are far different, and they have to do that on their own, which is, as I stated, a strong indication of the popularity of Zaun, and a good early measure of social networking success…one of the few measures we have right now in this campaign.

  • The Tea Party

    The Tea Party started out as a loosely organized grassroots movement. However the Republican astroturff machine quickly latched on to it, and not always as the acceptance of the Tea Party.

    The biggest issue I see with the Tea Party right now is their lack of a coherent message. Much like the current Republican leadership their only real purpose is to oppose everything Obama and the Democrats do. If Obama farted they would complain that it wasn’t loud enough or didn’t stink enough.

    They have no solutions to any of the issues that are facing us today.  

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