Durbin Credits Tea Party Candidates With Boosting Democrats’ Chances

Posted September 26, 2010 at 11:01am

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin credited the tea party Sunday with making Democrats unexpectedly competitive in several races in this year’s midterm Congressional elections.

“When the tea party becomes the gatekeeper of a Republican primary, we end up with contests we never dreamed of,” the Illinois Democrat said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Who would have guessed that today that we would take an honest look at Alaska, Delaware and Kentucky, where we clearly have races where the Democrats can win? Or Florida, which is in turmoil because of the tea party?”

Tea party favorites beat GOP establishment candidates in primaries in Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky and Florida, and polls show the general election contests are closer than might have been expected.

“I think that shows that the tea party position is too extreme for most voters, and I think we’re going to do well in those states,” Durbin said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that while the tea party movement extends past Republicans and into independent voters, it won’t work against the party. “One thing we know about everybody who has been active in this movement, we know none of them are going to go out and vote Democrat on Nov. 2,” the Kentucky Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We may have some internal difference about various parts, but everybody knows who’s been in charge of the government for the last year and a half.”

He added, “They know if they want to save America, they have to change the Congress, and that’s going to happen on Nov. 2”.

Durbin acknowledged that Democrats will likely lose seats in both chambers this fall. “Off-year elections are rarely kind to the incumbent president,” he said. “If we maintain, and I believe we will, our majorities in the Senate and in the House, working majorities that we can work with this president to solve the problems of this country, it will be a good election night.”

Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.