The Tea Party’s Challenge in Toppling Romney

The Republican presidential primary is providing an excellent lesson in the distortions of big money in political races.

Tea Party supporters, in many ways the most influential force in Republican politics, are having a heck of a time taking control of the nominating process. In part, this is because they have struggled to unite behind an anti-Romney candidate.

But the latest dust-up over Romney’s time at Bain highlights another problem. While the anti-Wall Street rhetoric of Gingrich and Perry is popular among the grassroots, it won’t help them win over many of the big donors they need to compete with Romney. You can’t vilify the “vulture capitalists” and then expect a handout. Today we have a concrete example of this broader challenge: One of Perry’s key South Carolina financial backers has just jumped ship over the attacks.

Even though the attacks on Romney might have broad resonance among Republican voters, without sufficient funds those attacks will be drown out by Romney’s own campaign advertising.* So Tea Party supporters, whose first big issue was TARP, will likely end up with a party nominee who brags about directly bringing his Wall Street experience to the White House.



* Ron Paul has shown the only viable counter-strategy to Romney’s money: a core of experienced volunteers willing to pay with their time and enthusiasm to overcome the well-financed media barrage. Unfortunately for Paul, the very ideology that helps motivate his dedicated base makes him unacceptable to broad segments of GOP primary voters.

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