Some are asking, “Where’s the tea party this midterm election year?”
The spontaneous grass-roots movement was credited with swinging the last midterm in 2010 – handing Republicans control of the House of Representatives.
While there may not be as many spontaneous rallies and marches as there were four years ago, there are some well-organized actions.
Tea Party Express is conducting its ninth national bus tour since the start of the organization around five years ago.
The bus tour is strategically visiting key states and districts where conservative candidates with tea party values are either seeking to unseat GOP-establishment incumbents or fill vacated seats. While all candidates are invited to the events and given time to speak, the crowd is there to find out who will take the tea party message to Washington in January when the new Congress convenes.
Sal Russo, the Tea Party Express’ founder and chief strategist, has been taking on the GOP establishment since he began working as an aide to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in the 1960s. He stuck with Reagan all throughout his political career and continues to be a thorn in the side of the establishment as one of the most successful tea party leaders in the U.S.
Russo has been a big player in campaigns around the country over the years, and he uses that experience to convey the tea party message. Tea Party Express is arguably one of the most effective tea party groups of any that have popped up since the bailouts and passage of Obamacare. Having Russo at the helm gave the organization a big advantage over other patriot groups that began with virtually no political and campaign experience.
Their Fighting for Liberty Bus Tour kicked off in Ft. Myers, Florida, at the victory party for Curt Clawson April 22. Clawson, a businessman and tea party favorite, won what Tea Party Express called the first tea party vs. establishment showdown of 2014.
The victory party didn’t last long. It was back to work for Russo and the organization as two Tea Party Express buses full of activists, stars and entertainers left Fort Myers early the next morning to do a string of rallies for which the organization is known best. The first week, they held rallies in Mobile, Biloxi, Jackson, Baton Rouge, Texarkana, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Cedar Rapids and Mason City.
From there it was on to Omaha, with the tour wrapping up in Minneapolis Thursday.
The rallies include conservative stars like Katrina Pierson, who is fresh off of a congressional campaign in which she unsuccessfully sought to unseat establishment GOP Rep. Pete Sessions. Popular Sean Hannity guest Wayne Dupree and frequent Fox News commentator Scottie Hughes of Tea Party News network attract crowds while patriotic singers and songwriters such as Diana Nagy and the Rivoli Revue get the crowds singing along. Comedian and TV star Jimmy Labriola gets the crowds laughing with his brand of conservative comedy, and investigative journalist Charles Johnson tells of being a target of the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. Senate candidate and rising star T.W. Shannon is one of those who fired up the crowd in Oklahoma City. Shannon is running for the vacant Senate seat there and has the backing of Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. His primary opponents, Rep. James Lankford and Randy Brogdon, also spoke at the rally trying to shore up the tea party base.
Dr. Milton Wolf, known for being President Obama’s cousin, took the stage at two events in Kansas. Wolf is taking on establishment GOP Sen. Pat Roberts who has been in Washington for 47 years. Wolf reminded crowds at the rallies in Kansas City and Wichita that Roberts doesn’t live in the state.
Recently, tea party groups, including Tea Party Express have come under fire from critics who claim they send little funding on to candidates.
“Our purpose is to engage conservatives in the political process so that grassroots energy and involvement can translate into campaign victories, which have been plentiful since 2010 for tea party candidates,” he told WND. “We were never set up to be a fundraising arm for candidates.”
When asked, tea partiers cite the vitriol on the left as case in point of their effectiveness.
Andrew Surabian, political director of Tea Party Express told WND, “If the establishment in both political parties didn’t deem us a threat, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to insult and marginalize us. The professional political class has always had a hard time understanding that the tea party movement relies on grassroots energy and not fancy TV advertisements. This is exactly why we are currently on a 13 day long national bus tour to rally the grassroots and get them involved in winning elections.”