A repeat of 2010 or a repeat of 2012?
The tea party succeeded spectacularly in 2010.
Its principled enthusiasm put Republicans back in charge of the House of Representatives and, if the tea party hadn’t been so stupid in several races, it should have given the GOP control of the Senate.
In 2010 tea party favorites Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Mike Lee won primaries and went on to win senate seats in Florida, Kentucky and Utah.
But the tea party also won several other Republican primaries with candidates that turned out to be total embarrassments.
Remember Christine O’Donnell in Delaware?
She defeated U.S. Rep. Michael Castle in the GOP primary for an open Senate seat. Then she had to spend all fall explaining to voters why she was not a witch.
Castle would have won that seat in a walk. But O’Donnell was almost laughed out of the state, losing 56-40 and handing Democrats a Senate spot they should never have had.
In 2010, two other shaky tea party-backed primary victors, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Ken Buck in Colorado, suffered similar fates in the general election.
In 2012, it was the same dumb story — rousing tea party primary victories that thrilled conservative talk-show hosts in May but guaranteed GOP losses in the fall.
Yes, Ted Cruz won big in Texas. But only four of the 16 Senate candidates backed by the Tea party won in the fall.
It wasn’t pretty in 2012.
After the tea party primaried GOP incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, its candidate Richard Mourdock went on to say some really stupid things about abortion and got his butt whipped in the fall, 50-44.
And of course, who can forget the great Todd Akin, the Republican House member from Missouri who was going to defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill — until he started blathering about “legitimate rape” and his campaign tanked.
Now we’re getting ready for 2014 and the tea party still hasn’t learned how not to shoot itself in both feet. It’s still putting up primary candidates who clearly are not ready for primetime — or any time.
In Texas, the tea party ran Rep. Steve Stockman in the March primary against sitting Senator John Cornyn.
Stockman, who gave up his House seat and barely campaigned, will be remembered most for giving away barf bags for every $10 contribution.
A few people may have thought that was cute or funny stuff, but all it did was make the tea party — and the GOP — look incompetent and foolish. Especially when Cronyn won by 58-19 percent.
Then there’s Kentucky, where Matt Bevin is the tea party candidate challenging incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell in the May 20 primary.
Last week, after he was “caught” speaking at a rally meant to build support for legal cockfighting in the state, Bevin defended himself by saying he was there because it was a state rights rally and he didn’t know it was a cockfighting rally.
OK, so he’s either lying or really stupid. In either case, he’s a lousy candidate and the tea party should ask him to do the Free World a favor and quit.
The tea party zealots who haven’t learned from their mistakes in 2010 and 2012 are trying their best to screw up the GOP’s chances to win the Senate this fall.
Where does the tea party find these people to run in primaries? Most important, why do they offer them up as legitimate Republican candidates?
The tea party bosses have been listening to too much talk radio. They seem to think that what makes a good Republican candidate is someone who sounds like a talk radio host.
But talk radio is all about bombast and attracting callers, not about winning elections.
If Republicans are going to win general elections in 2014 and beyond, we’ve got to put up principled conservative candidates who sound like senators, congressmen and governors — not kooks.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder of the email service reagan.com and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation.