The failure of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to win the GOP nomination in 2008 was, in retrospect, a harbinger of this grassroots shift. Governor Huckabee starred in the Republican debates with his witty sallies against big government and his commonsense folk wisdom. He capitalized on this strong performance to build mighty field organizations in Iowa and other early primary states. He looked like a real contender.
But the attacks on his spending programs in Arkansas by the Club for Growth — often inaccurate or exaggerated — undermined his ability to reach beyond the confines of the evangelical ghetto and doomed his candidacy to a regional one. He won state after state in the South but had trouble making inroads in the northeast. (If Huckabee runs again in 2012, it will be interested to see how his hosting of a weekend show on Fox News will affect his standing.)
But the Tea Party has flourished in all regions, drawing libertarians in the North and evangelicals in the South, all committed to its agenda of reduced spending, limited taxation, balanced budgets, and free-market economics. It is the new mantra of the Republican grassroots and has a lot to do with the massive gains the party will win on November 2.
– Dick Morris and Eileen McGann are the authors of 2010: Take Back America: A Battle Plan and founders of www.dickmorris.com.