NEW YORK – The tea party movement in New Hampshire is claiming two scalps in a battle with the Republican establishment that reflects a broader civil war poised to escalate if GOP leaders of the House and Senate compromise with President Obama on key legislative issues, including immigration and Obamacare.
In the wake of Tuesday’s midterm elections, the New Hampshire tea party is drawing attention to the defeat of two GOP candidates the Republican Party establishment had backed heavily. In a wave election in which the GOP enjoyed historic gains, Walt Havenstein ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, and Scott Brown lost to sitting Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Josh Youssef, who won the GOP nomination for a New Hampshire state Senate seat in 2012 but lost in the general election, perhaps said it best in a Twitter comment posted at 12:07 am ET on Nov. 5.
“Tea Party to Scott Brown, Walt Havenstein, and NHGOP: YOU LOSE. Marginalize us, and you will continue to lose – it is that simple!”
A flashpoint for New Hampshire tea party supporters was a 2010 video clip showing Havenstein, a private businessman at the time, dismissing tea party members by the derogatory term “teabaggers” in a speech he gave to business students at the University of New Hampshire.
“We’ve got a lot of problems in this country,” Havenstein said. “The teabaggers, or whatever they are, they have been telling us that all summer long, alright?”
Then, appearing to laugh, he added: “Isn’t that who they are? I am a little out of touch.”
Then, at a July 9 campaign event sponsored by the Belknap County Republican Committee, Havenstein resisted complying with a citizen asking for an apology. The candidate insisted he did not understand the derogatory meaning of the term when he used it in 2010.
Skip Murphy, co-founder of the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition and co-founder of the tea party-oriented GraniteGrok.com blog, told WND that Havenstein’s refusal to apologize revealed his antagonism toward the tea party.
“Somebody like Havenstein does not rise to become a colonel in the Marine Corps and to be CEO of two defense firms and not know politics,” Murphy said.
“Given Havenstein’s body language and his smirk in the original 2010 video, I am confident he knew exactly what he was saying calling tea party members ‘teabaggers.’ He’s lying about it. He doesn’t like the tea party, and it’s obvious.”
Writing about Havenstein’s refusal to apologize, Murphy emphasized on the GraniteGrok.com blog that he believes in what he considers the tea party’s three principles: constitutional bounds for government, fiscal frugality and free markets.
“Defense corporations are always looking for more government money, and Havenstein is not a tea party fiscal conservative,” Murphy said.
“The ‘liberty and freedom’ advocates in New Hampshire have told Havenstein to his face numerous times that we would stay home,” he said. ‘We weren’t going to vote for Hassan, and we had no intention of voting for Havenstein.”
Murphy explained the various tea party groups active in New Hampshire politics consider themselves at odds with the New Hampshire GOP.
“The GOP up here in New Hampshire is run by a party boss we call ‘Papa Smurf,'” Murphy said.
He was referring to John Sununu, former chief-of-staff under President George H.W. Bush and later New Hampshire governor.
“Sununu and the families running the GOP in New Hampshire picked Havenstein because he is their kind of guy – a believer in big government and big government spending – just like Scott Brown,” said Murphy.
Tea party activists turned Havenstein’s insult around, calling both he and Brown “carpet baggers,” noting this was the “other type of bagger in the political lexicon.” Neither are long-term New Hampshire residents.
But for tea party voters, the designation “RINO,” Republican in Name Only, was the more damaging characterization, concluding the two candidates were not sufficiently conservative to distinguish themselves from the Democrats they were contesting.
Not even a meeting between Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn at party headquarters in Concord, N.H., on Oct. 16 was sufficient to turn tea party antagonists around to support Havenstein or Brown.
During the campaign, the GraniteGrok.com blog blasted Havenstein’s and Brown’s campaign platforms as “Democrat Lite.” The site saw Brown’s support of gun rights under the Second Amendment as lukewarm at best. Both did their best to avoid social issues, refusing to come out unequivocally behind pro-life opposition to abortion.
A Marine Corps veteran and a social scientist by training, New Hampshire resident Rick Olsen blasted Havenstein and Brown in an editorial he wrote for the GraniteGrog.com blog, charging that neither Havenstein nor Brown ever spoke about the GOP platform or its planks.
Havenstein and Brown “listen to the mainstream media, crafting a message steered by polls and focus groups,” Olsen wrote.
“Lite Democrats is what they are. Both lack the homogenous history to curry favor with the voting base and the NH GOP state party is complicit in assisting them. All too frequently upon assuming office, it is these folks who partially or totally abandon the party platform.”
Writing June 20, Olson predicted Havenstein would lose “to the Democratic machine” and that Brown, if he won the nomination, would “lose big to Jeanne Shaheen.”
Olsen expressed a common tea party emotion in New Hampshire during the 2014 campaign, arguing that getting rid of Democrats Hassan and Shaheen were not reason enough to win his votes for Havenstein or Brown.
“I am voting for neither of these ‘kinged’ choices,” Olsen wrote. “And I can say with certainty that I am not alone in that sentiment.”