Did the Tea Party Support Chris McDaniel?

by Eliana Johnson

On Friday, Rich commended the Club for Growth for putting a lot of money — over $3.1 million to be exact — behind its vocal support of Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate primary. In terms of dollars spent, the Senate Conservatives Fund came in second, pouring over $1.3 million into the state to back McDaniel. Both groups also spent heavily in the three-week runoff election: approximately $650,000 and $250,000 respectively, and, in a race that was conducted largely over the airwaves, that money went mostly to television and digital advertisements, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

The role of national tea-party groups in several races, particularly given their lack of support for David Brat (just $15,000 in voter-contact calls, which came from the Tea Party Victory Fund), has become the subject of some debate. 

Among the national tea-party groups, Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks both spent heavily in Mississippi: $811,000 and $450,000 respectively. Aside from a $376,000 media buy, a lot of of what Tea Party Patriots spent on, according to documents filed with the FEC, was on list rental and acquisition, script writing, copy writing, and e-marketing — that is, things that don’t appear to be particularly helpful in getting a candidate elected.

When the race was thrown into a runoff on June 3, Tea Party Patriots solicited donations from its supporters. A money bomb blasted to activists said, “We must raise $1 million by June 24th to fund the massive get-out-the-vote operation that will win this critical runoff election and shock the Washington establishment.” According to their website, the group succeeded. During the runoff, though, it spent just $157,000, none of which was used to advertise on McDaniel’s behalf. I’ve asked them for comment about this and will post an update when I get one. 

FreedomWorks spent mostly on online ads, doorhangers, bumper stickers, telemarketing, and travel for its own members. 

The point being: When it came to the major ad buys that move voters and swing elections, the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund were the important players in Mississippi. 

There are murmurs among those on the party’s right flank that Joe Carr, who is challenging Senator Lamar Alexander in Tennessee, could pull off an upset similar to the one Brat pulled off over House majority leader Eric Cantor. Not a single national tea-party group has spent on the race to date.