After 'fiscal cliff,' US conservatives eye Republican primaries
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The U.S. Congress prevented hefty tax hikes and spending cuts with a "fiscal cliff" deal this week, but grassroots conservatives are already seeking 2014 primary challengers for high-profile Republican lawmakers who backed the deal.
Few challengers have yet come forward. But fiscally conservative activists irate at Republicans who voted to raise some taxes without cutting spending are casting about for opponents to Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
"Many people here have watched Mitch McConnell's voting record and are dissatisfied with what they've seen," said Eric Wilson, executive director of the Kentucky 9/12 project, a Tea Party group in McConnell's home state. "There are some potential candidates working in the background and doing the right thing" including visiting Kentucky's conservatives to gauge support.
Wilson declined to divulge names, citing McConnell's fundraising prowess that allowed him to amass almost $19 million for his 2008 re-election bid. McConnell could not be reach for comment.
"Anyone who sticks their neck out now will get their head cut off," he added. "But there are definitely people here with real potential."
In the 2010 midterm elections the Tea Party movement took the Republican "establishment" by surprise with high-profile primary victories over more conventional candidates and brought a wave of freshmen to the House of Representatives.
But despite successes in the primaries in 2012, most notably the defeat of Indiana's six-term Republican Senator Dick Lugar by state treasurer Richard Mourdock, conservative candidates fared poorly in the general election.
Tea Party supporters claim 2014 should be different as lower turnout in midterm years allows fiscal conservatives to punch above their weight.
"Presidential politics in 2012 sucked oxygen out of the conversation in local races," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, which coordinates with Tea Party groups around the country. "So to us, 2014 looks more like 2010."