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Will The Tea Party Debate Boost or Doom GOP Candidates?

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Coloradans Hold Tax Day Tea Party Rallies

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

CNN is sponsoring the very first official Tea Party Presidential debate on Monday.

I still find it difficult to believe that a movement with so little official organization can have a first official debate, but that’s a different blog entry.

The preview of the debate stated that 100 members of the audience of 1000 will be selected to ask the potential questions. As a debate producer, I can assure you that with 8 candidates, everyone’s question will not be asked, trust me.

But what interests me is will the official Tea Party questions stick to the fiscal issues that created the movement in the first place, or will social conservative issues push their way into the debate?

The answer to that question may determine if the Tea Party will ultimately help the eventual GOP nominee attract independent voters, or if the Tea Party will be the albatross on the neck of the eventual GOP nominee that gives President Obama a clear shot to re-election.

The economy remains the key issue of the campaign and frankly should dominate it throughout the primaries and the general election. And coincidentally, the economy, or more accurately, how the government responded to the recession with a stimulus plan, helped give birth and fuel the Tea Party movement.

If the Tea Party movement, which is fond of keeping candidates to their word, actually keeps their collective word and sticks to fiscal issues, they may end up helping the eventual GOP nominee attract unaffiliated voters. That potential increases in swing states that are suffering the worst during the recession, like Ohio.

They may be painted as extremists, but if they can stay painted as economic extremists, there should be some unaffiliated voters that would listen to that brand of logic, especially if we see a double dip recession or if there is a sentiment that the American Jobs Act is just another stimulus package.

But up to this point, staying focused is not exactly the Tea Party movement’s forte. Without a clear leader, it hasn’t exactly been co-opted by the right wing of the GOP, but it has not maintained a laser focus on economic issues. That’s been proven by the actions of “Tea Party Endorsed” candidates in Congress on conservative social issues.

It can be a very short walk from supporting conservative economic theories to supporting conservative social theories. But the problem is that by embracing conservative social theories, and ensuring that GOP Candidates swear allegiance to them, the Tea Party movement will make it harder and harder for GOP candidates to attract independent voters.

So the real question that needs to be answered at the first official Tea Party debate really doesn’t need to be asked to the candidates, it needs to be directed at the movement itself.

Are economic issues, the very same the movement was founded upon, still the only thing that matters to the Tea Party?

If the answer is yes, they will likely be a political force to be reckoned with. If the answer is no, President Obama can begin drafting his thank you note to them right now.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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