Hardball | January 30, 2013
>>> we've got to stop being the stupid party . and i'm serious. it's time for a new republican party that talks like adults. we had a number of republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. i'm here to say we've had enough of that.
>> welcome back to "hardball." for more than a year now, we've seen stories asking whether the tea party was on its way out. and during all that time, it has only strengthened its hold on the american party . but dana milbank provided a great ticktock looking at notable events the past week that suggests many republicans and supporters are growing wary of the tea party 's grip on the gop . last thursday governor bobby jindal from louisiana told the rnc it's time for the gop to stop being the stupid party . on friday fox news said thanks but no thanks to sarah palin . on saturday word leaked that speaker john boehner had called some of his own members hard heads. and on monday john mccain and marco rubio signed on to an immigration proposal that's not all enforcement. it includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the states. dana milbank is with me along with joan walsh of salon. joan, are you buying the demise of the tea party argument that dana has made?
>> i would love to, but i think it's too soon. and dana says that himself. all of these data points are real. i guess the only one i would take issue with is the bobby jindal characterization. i think bobby jindal remains, i guess talks a good game but remains a conservative force and tea party force. because he's trying to do away with personal income taxes . and he wanted to eliminate hospice care for medicaid patients. so this perspective on spending that the tea party brought certainly hasn't gone away. anytime you've got 36 united states senators who voted down sandy relief a couple days ago, you know that something has fundamentally changed about the way that republicans talk about government. so i think it's too early to say that they're dead, but all the things dana points to are good signs and signs of some kind of sanity seeping in.
>> and dana , maybe it's all in a name. because i think what continues on for sure is this conservative domination particularly in republican primaries . i mean, here you've got mitch mcconnell being threatened now in kentucky and next year's election from the right.
>> right. and the tea party 's never really been an organized political force. and i'm using that as a shorthand for the far right that's been dominating the party right now. and as i point out in the column, that force really isn't going anywhere because of the redistricting, because of the way things are structured in the house. and because of this primary system. we also have zaxby chambliss bowing out rather than face a primary challenge . the element of the party is going to be dominant for some time to come. the pea party isn't over, but what i think you have is some of the more sober revelers in the tea party are heading for the exits because they realize this thing is getting rowdy and the police are showing up and it's going to get ugly. i think that's what's going on here. people who are interested in 2016 who realize the party has to change are growing a bit of bravery right now in saying we can't continue to tolerate this.
>> well, let's take a look at where the tea party stands among americans. cnn opinion research poll taken this past november shows the tea party has a 50% unfavorable rating. that's double what it was in 2010 . meanwhile the tea party 's favorable rating has pretty much stayed the same. i think dana makes a great point when he talks about partisan districts. 435 congressional districts in the country and really only 35 of them are in play. well, those that are held by republicans are still going to have this influence in them regardless of whether we refer to them as the tea party types.
>> that's exactly right. you know, i call it jerry mandering. i'm fine with that word. what you're seeing is those districts people are only afraid of a challenge from the right. they don't have to fear centrist republicans . then you have the states that are solid red states like georgia, for example. you could have a paul brunn. and iowa will be another one. does steve king somehow emerge to sadly, tragically, somehow take tom harkin 's seat? or does someone come out with the nomination because iowa is not a red state . it's certainly purple. but in the red states like kentucky and georgia and in the really red districts, you're still going to have this extremist view about government and about spending and also about immigration. i'm really curious to watch this unfold and see the education of marco rubio and whether he is doing this to appear centrist, appear reasonable but quickly backs down to the forces of reaction? or whether he perseveres with this and really tries to get something done.
>> well, let's not forget the tea party aligned folks such as christine o'donnell, ken buck, plus todd akin who i guess is a tea party candidate but was in spirit only. they all lost senate elections that should have been slam dunks for the republicans . the gop needs to be careful. because they want to keep that as part of their constituency. they just don't want them running the show, i guess is what i'm trying to say.
>> right. and if you put together all of those candidates that you just mentioned and these were all safe seats for the republicans in the senate. had they won those steeats, they would be in charge today. they need it to harness the energy from the far right but not be taken over by it. i think a lot of sensible voices in the party are saying we've got a problem here. if we want to win again, we've got to do something about it. yet they've structured the system this way so that all of their members are just terrified of losing in a primary far more than they are of defying the will of the american electorate. the problem is going to be here for a long tile. but you're seeing the chris christies, the marco roubios, and the bobby jindals beginning to say we've got to change something.
>> and joan walsh , briefly, the gop cannot afford them to form a libertarian effort of their own. that would be a death nail for the gop .
>> right. and chris christie isn't a libertarian, so the strains they represent, too, are different strains of the republican party . but the republican party needs to hold together to be a national party . i don't think that's going to happen. but if those voices of slight reform get completely muddled, something will happen.
>> thank you very much. dana milbank , congrats on what you wrote.
>>> up next, the boy scouts are considering dropping their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. but not everybody's on board. that's ahead. this is "hardball" the place for politics.