Tea Party's future remains uncertain after mixed results

Christine O'Donnell gives an interview the morning after her loss. Photo Source: CNN
Christine O'Donnell gives an interview the morning after her loss. Photo Source: CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (RNN) - While the Tea Party groups across the country are declaring victory after Tuesday's elections, the impact of the conservative movement remains uncertain.

The GOP declared victory over several states, taking over nearly every major office up for grabs on Election Day. Nikki Haley, South Carolina's Republican governor-elect and Tea Partier, made history twice when she became the state's first female and first Indian-American governor.

"We can make history by changing the way government runs," Haley in her victory speech Tuesday night.

Haley's campaign harped on the same principles which drove discontented voters to oust the Democratic Party from seats across the country. She ran in support of a stronger economy, more jobs, and controlled spending.

"Every dollar was not government's money," Haley said. "It was the tax payers' dollars, and how we spend it matters."

For the rest of the female field, things weren't so rosy.

Senate candidates Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle lost their races in Delaware and Nevada with sizable margins. Respectively, they finished 17 and 6 percentage points behind their Democratic opponents.

O'Donnell was quick to point the finger at the GOP for failing to walk in solidarity with the Tea Party.

"I think the only thing that really would've made a difference is if the Delaware GOP would've unified," she said Wednesday on "Good Morning America."

All three women were part of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies"-endorsed team.

"They rise up," Palin said at a May GOP breakfast. "You thought pit bulls are tough. You don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies."

But voters may have had trouble relating to these women, who made costly mistakes during their runs.

After an old interview surfaced in which she implied she had dabbled in witchcraft, O'Donnell ran a now-infamous TV commercial in an attempt undo the damage.

"I'm not a witch," she said, dressed in all black. "I'm not what you've heard. I'm you."

Angle caused a firestorm in October when she addressed a group of Hispanic high school students in Nevada and tried to imply that she was blind to race.

"Some of you look a little more Asian to me," she said.

Voters didn't buy it.

Prior to the election, many in the GOP believed the Delaware and Nevada Senate seats were within reach. Now, they are beginning to blame the women for the Democrats' ability to retain control of the Senate.

The men of the Tea Party movement fared much better than their female counterparts, winning numerous Senate races.

Dr. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Mark Rubio of Florida, Rep. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin were five of the six right wing candidates who reclaimed their state's Senate seats from Democratic control.

In Alaska, however, the Tea Party- and Palin-backed Joe Miller is poised to lose to the woman he defeated in his state's primary: Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

With nearly 100 percent of precincts reporting, an independent write-in campaign has given Murkowski a 7 percent lead over Miller.

One of the most high-profile losses Tuesday was Republican Carl Paladino, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of the left-leaning New York.

Paladino caused a media firestorm in October when he said homosexuality was a "valid or successful option" to heterosexuality. In a subsequent appearance on the "Today Show," Paladino refused to apologize for his remarks.

"No I don't regret the remark," he told Matt Lauer. "The remarks that I made, I believe them."

In spite of the high-profile losses, analysts credit the Tea Party for the Republican takeover of the house. The party's views on taxes and spending energized an electorate, whose main concern was the economy.

With these mixed results, only time will reveal the ultimate viability of the Tea Party movement.

But one thing is for sure, according to O'Donnell: "The Republican Party will never be the same."

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