David Brat's shameless new friends: Tea Party groups that ignored him now declare victory

Big groups like Tea Party Patriots ignored David Brat. But it's never too late to jump on the bandwagon!

Published June 11, 2014 5:11PM (EDT)

David Brat                  (AP/Steve Helber)
David Brat (AP/Steve Helber)

Tea Party activists in Virginia's 7th Congressional District earned themselves a pat on the back for David Brat's defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The big national Tea Party groups, on the other hand, did not. But they'll pat themselves on the back all the same.

Writing at the Daily Caller, Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, takes a big ol' victory lap:

Brat’s victory is a cautionary tale to Republicans going forward in the 2014 election cycle. Cantor and other establishment Republicans have turned their backs on their constituents for too long and they will no longer stand for it. Whether it’s amnesty for illegal immigrants, Obamacare or federal spending, conservatives are speaking up and insist on being heard. Cantor heard them, but only after losing his job as the number two Republican in the House.

In the final analysis, Dave Brat’s defeat of Eric Cantor is about far more than a getting a scalp in a primary election; it’s about being right on the issues and motivating grassroots activists who are empowered by their tea party affiliations. Good policy is good politics and Brat proved that to the Republican Party on June 10. Whether the establishment GOP is listening remains to be seen, but if they want to keep their jobs, they’ll start paying attention.

This is some serious chutzpah from Martin, who herself only started "paying attention" in the latest 18 or so hours. Give her credit in this column, at least, for finally paying enough attention to get the name of Cantor's challenger correct. Last night, the group issued a statement with the headline, "TPPCF Chairman Jenny Beth Martin Lauds David Brent, Grassroots Activists."

The New York Times points out how Brat waged his campaign "solo." This is half-true -- he had a lot of outside backup from popular right-wing media figures like Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter. He didn't, however, have much financial help from the big Tea Party groups whose mission is to oust "Establishment" Republicans:

Despite running a decidedly anti-establishment campaign in which he criticized government bailouts and budget deals and frequently invoked God and the Constitution, Mr. Brat was unable to secure the endorsement of Tea Party groups with national networks, a sign of how under the radar his candidacy was. With FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots all staying out of the race, Mr. Brat raised just over $200,000.

Indeed, last night, as Cantor was "winning," Martin and leaders of fellow Tea Party groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth were "celebrating" at a dinner in Northern Virginia, according to the Washington Post's Robert Costa. Sometime around the dessert course, presumably, Laura Ingraham was on Fox News trashing these "professional" Tea Party groups for ignoring Brat.

You can understand why Martin is working so hard to paper over her group's lack of involvement with the Brat victory. Once Tea Partyers realize that they don't need the big organizations' help, why should they donate any more money to them?

Things haven't reached a boiling point, yet, but Brat's victory and the ongoing fallout is another sign that there's often some tension between local Tea Party activists and the Other Establishment.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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