The GOP Establishment Fights Back

Business interests claimed that the disastrous government shutdown strategy woke them up to the problems caused by Tea Party Republicans, and last night we saw the beginning of a shift in strategy. The business community basically ignored radical right-winger Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race. Cuccinelli had expressed support for the Tea Party strategy and also had very extreme views on social issues. Then, in a special election for a House seat in Alabama, the business community lined up behind Bradley Byrne who was facing Tea Party darling Dean Young who made a serious of extreme statements including Birther references.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent around $200,000 on Byrne’s behalf, and Ending Spending, an outside group bankrolled by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, spent around $75,000 on TV and ads boosting him.

Business groups have stated that they will begin to play in primaries after several election cycles where the Tea Party and the far right were left alone to support their candidates and pick off business-friendly Republicans. In many ways this is just an escalation in the GOP civil war, but it marks an important turning point. They are sending a message to GOP House members that there will be a price to pay for spitting in the face of Wall Street and the business community.


Utah bankers revolt against Mike Lee

Utah Senator Mike Lee, along with Ted Cruz, has been one of the vocal ringleaders of the government shutdown strategy that almost led to a United States default when they also tried to use the debt ceiling as leverage. Lee has been unapologetic about his role, but now his approval rating is plummeting in Utah. Also, consistent with what we’re hearing from business leaders around the country, the backlash against Lee’s tactics are extending to the business community in Utah as many of his former fundraisers and supporters seem determined to have Lee replaced.

The Post quoted A. Scott Anderson, the president of a prominent Utah bank who raised money for Lee’s successful 2010 campaign.

“If things are to happen, you can’t just stick to your principles. You have to make things work. . . . You’ve got to be practical,” Anderson said, as quoted by the Post.

And then there was Utah native Spencer Zwick, the finance chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, branding Lee a “show horse” and vowing to campaign against the senator.

“Business leaders that I talk to, many of whom supported him, would never support his reelection and in fact will work against him, myself included,” Zwick told the Post.

The Journal, meanwhile, caught up with Quin Monson, a pollster for Brigham Young University who said that Lee may have set himself for a tough re-election campaign.

“Lee looks vulnerable to a challenge from within his party, but the real danger could be a challenge in a general election from the right kind of moderate Democrat,” Monson told the Journal.

We’ll see if this attitude persists. Lee has basically said he doesn’t care what people think, as he’s determined to go with his notion of “principle” over compromise. Business leaders are talking tough now against the Tea Party, but will they follow through next year?

But there are numerous reports indicating that the money is drying up. People who work on Wall Street are realizing that many in the Tea Party hold them in contempt and could care less if the country defaults on its debt. Many are saying they will look for more moderate Republicans who respect business to support.

We’ll see what happens.


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