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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If Tea Party Republicans don't act fast, they will lose the debt message war

S.E. Cupp
On Feb. 19, 2009, CNBC host Rick Santelli had a bit of a breakdown. In a live broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, he went on a now-infamous rant against the Obama administration's mortgage bailout plan, calling for a Chicago "tea party."

A few days later, after the clip had gone viral, a post on CNBC.com innocently asked its readers, "Should America join Santelli's 'Tea Party' protesting mortgage relief?" If only they knew then what we all know now.

Which is that millions did join up, of course, sparking what may end up being one of the most significant grass-roots uprisings in recent American political history. If, that is, it can survive the month of August.

In the midst of a still-unfolding debt crisis that remains unsolved despite a last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling (a deal that suffered a psychological blow when Standard & Poor's still went ahead and downgraded our national credit rating from AAA), the Tea Party is left in a vulnerable spot. And its many detractors know it.

When news of the S&P's downgrade broke, Democrats were quick to pounce, coining a catchy, if uncreative, three-word explanation that put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the 87 congressional representatives who identify with the Tea Party and pushed for big spending cuts and opposed any tax hikes. The "Tea Party downgrade" meme spread like wildfire across liberal blogs and those who love them.

There was Obama advertiser - I mean adviser - David Axelrod on "Face the Nation" over the weekend, putting the new and undoubtedly focus-grouped phrase to work. "This is essentially a Tea Party downgrade," he said. "It was something that should never have happened that clearly is on the backs of those who were willing the see the country default: those very strident voices in the Tea Party."

And there was Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and his windsurfing-swept hair on "Meet the Press," utterly indignant that a group of ruddy-faced rubes dared to interrupt politics as usual. "I believe this is, without question, the 'Tea Party downgrade'. . . I think this is one of the most telling, important moments in our country's history right now."

And there was former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and his quirky Vermont brand of outrage on "Face the Nation," going even further in lambasting Tea Party Republicans for the downgrade. "This is a Tea Party problem. They are totally unreasonable and doctrinaire and not founded in reality," he said.

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