Over in the GOP Senate primary in North Carolina, Greg Brannon seems to have the momentum. A new PPP poll shows him tied with Thom Tillis. He’s racked up endorsements from the darlings of the Tea Party and FreedomWorks, the organization that made the Tea Party a political force, is also on board.
And all this came about after he was found liable of bilking investors and caught plagiarizing from Rand Paul, also a noted plagiarizer. Talk about teflon!
This week, Brannon scored more points by doubling down on attacks on the GOP establishment. In June 2012, he wrote on a blog that a vote for Mitt Romney would “advance tyranny” and that there was no difference between Romney and Obama. Instead of backing off the statement, he’s stuck by it. In the Republican primary, that probably gets him another point or two.
And that’s the problem that Republicans face. Twenty years ago, Greg Brannon would be a fringe candidate. Today, he’s in a dead heat for the GOP nomination for U. S. Senate. Nothing he says or does seems to shake the faith of his supporters.
A substantial portion of the GOP base doesn’t trust the Republican establishment. If they can’t find a difference between Obama and Romney, they’re certainly not going to find much between Hagan and Tillis. So even if Brannon loses the nomination to Tillis, what’s going to motivate his supporters to show up in November?
The influence of the Tea Party may be on the wane, but it still makes up a significant portion of the base. If the Tea Party fades, what happens to those voters? Will they moderate their views, go to a third party or just stay home? As fervent as they are, I doubt they moderate. They will probably leave politics in disgust or move toward libertarianism.
Another chunk of the GOP the base, the Christian conservatives, is also in decline. And like the Tea Party, they don’t seem to realize that their views are moving outside the mainstream. As The Washington Post noted, they’re still fighting gay marriage while the rest of the country is moving on.
The future of the GOP is probably an alliance of free-market libertarians and country club establishment, but that won’t happen for quite awhile. For now, they are stuck with a dying coalition. The question in North Carolina is can the Republicans nominate a viable candidate and can they hold together that coalition for one more cycle?
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >