LaTourette is right on social issues, wrong on the Tea Party

Steve LaTourette

Last week. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) tried to explain the Republican Party’s loss during an interview on CNN. LaTourette, who did not seek re-election this year, explained that, while the GOP has the “right message on finances,” it has to learn to get “out of people’s bedrooms”:

Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican from Ohio, had some strong language for his party on Thursday, saying that he wants Republicans “out of people’s bedrooms.”

After Republicans lost the presidential race and failed to retake the Senate, LaTourette said the GOP must rein in its extreme right wing and reach out to growing minority groups in order to stay competitive in future elections.

“We have the right message on finances, we have to get out of people’s lives, get out of people’s bedrooms, and we have to be a national party,” LaTourette said on CNN’s Starting Point. “Or else we’re going to lose.”

LaTourette also blasted the idea that the Tea Party movement has the answers for the party, slamming Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in the process, noting that their views on abortion cost Republican votes:

The notion that the tea party holds the key to Republican success moving forward is “nonsense,” LaTourette said. He also said that “we can’t continue to dis the Latino voters.” Finally, LaTourette took aim at Republican Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, both of whom made controversial remarks about rape during the election.

“My wife’s a Democrat, and she was so close to voting for Mitt Romney,” he said. “But then, you know, Mourdock and Akin opened their mouth, and we sent them running back to the Democratic Party, because they think we’re nutty.”

LaTourette is hitting the nail on the head when it comes to social issues and immigration. It’s become clear that Republicans have to learn that wedge social issues may work in primary battles, but they tend to turn off or drive away swing voters. Perhaps a more tolerant tone on social issues would have helped Romney in swing states, where picking up half of young voters could have put him in the White House.

Akin and Mourdock’s comments clearly cost the GOP two seats in the Senate. However, it’s not fair to cast the Tea Party movement aside because of two poor candidates. If it weren’t for the Tea Party, a fundamentally libertarian movement that helped drive voters to the polls in 2010, the makeup of the House of Representatives could be very different today. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a beneficiary of Tea Party support in 2010, recently explained that the movement continues to help the GOP:

Lee’s comments, made during an interview Friday with Laura Ingraham on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor” came after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) deemphasized the influence of the Tea Party in the House. In a recent interview with ABC News, Boehner said that “We don’t have a Tea Party Caucus to speak of in the House.” He added that “all of us who were elected in 2010 were supported by the Tea Party.”

“I’m not sure what his intent was. And he’s not here to speak for himself. But what I can say is that this party has benefited because of the grassroots conservative political movement that started in 2009. Some have called it the Tea Party,” Lee said. “That brought us a Republican victory in 2010 in the House it brought us some victories in the Senate. And it has continued to benefit the party in the 2012 election cycle.”

Akin and Mourdock lost because they went off the reservation on social issues, not because of their economic views. Perhaps they weren’t vetted well enough by supporting groups, but their losses don’t signal an end to the Tea Party movement, nor its relevance in American politics.

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