Bob Franken

The Mid Term Right Stuff

^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2010 Hearst Newspapers@= September 16, 2010 WASHINGTON--How do you spell GOP these days? Maybe it's T-E-A. In the latest round of primaries, Christine O'Donnell successfully stormed the establishment Castle in Delaware's Republican Senate battle and insurgent conservative Carl Paladino laid Lazio low in the New York governor's primary. With their wins, O'Donnell and Paladino become just the latest hardliners to clothesline those who thought they had earned an easy run. They seem to be everywhere, moving out of their bunkers from Nevada to Kentucky to Delaware and New York; from Florida all the way to Alaska. They had been dismissed as loopy but they are now in the loop. Many of the so-called experts believe that in the process they have seriously reduced the chance the R's will take over Congress from the D's...that they may have taken a page from the Democrats' playbook and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Don't be so sure. It's always possible the national mood is so sour these insurgents may pull off their mutiny in the general election and actually set up camp in Washington. One way or the other, the Tea Party's "patriots" have already assumed another role in their wild frontier...that of stalking horse. Whatever else they have accomplished, they have raised the profile of Sarah Palin, if that was even possible. She has become the face of their revolt. In the process she has probably caused some rancor in the ranks of the would-be presidential candidates. You know who these "leaders" are; the ones pretending they haven't decided whether they're official pretenders to the White House throne. That's the really big prize on everyone's mind.

Perhaps this primacy of Mamma Grizzly has really agitated the king panderer, Newt Gingrich, who after all had led the last successful assault on a Democrat Congress.

How quickly we forget. Once again he has to jump up and down for attention. As a result, his every utterance has been like a breath of hot air. There’s his embrace of a Forbes Magazine piece that describes President Obama as a “Kenyan anti-colonial.” What in Heaven’s name could that possibly mean, unless it’s some cheesy attempt to glom on to the “Birther” movement.?

And let us not forget the red-meat rhetoric designed to push all the current religious intolerance buttons: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York, so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia,” Gingrich roared. So we’re now competing socially with Saudi Arabia?

At least Gingrich admits he’s considering a run for President and apparently is trying to set himself apart as not just another pretty face.

Then there’s Michelle Bachmann, who is apparently still trying to put herself in that mix. She’s all over TV and wherever the faithful can hear her deride the minimum wage or pontificate that President Obama may have “Anti-American views.”

When Glenn Beck had his massive August tent meeting at the Lincoln Memorial, Bachmann wasn’t on the official program, like Palin. But she managed to make sure the media knew she would be speaking on the fringes. And describing the “fringes” of a Glenn Beck event probably demonstrates the state of politics in this country right now.

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint confuses things even more. He manages to be the outsider-insider…a rebellious spirit who’s still a member of the club. For three years running he’s been rated by the National Journal as the “most conservative United States senator.” John Gizzi of the Right’s bible, “Human Events,” refers to DeMint as a “superstar” and the Wall Street Journal editorial page calls him “a major political force.”

But before the presidential campaign can begin, there’s there’s the small matter of the 2010 Republican candidates who are trying to lead the way from the old extreme to the new mainstream. How they do with their midterm lightning bolts will have a lot to do with how much thunder still remains on the Right in 2012.

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