The Tea Party Express will be in southern Indiana Saturday to host two rallies as part of the group’s “Restoring the American Dream” tour.
Based in California, the political action committee’s tour is focused on battleground states in this year’s congressional and presidential elections where tea party candidates are vying for office.
Across the country, the group has gained the reputation for aggressive campaigning and has raised millions of dollars to support candidates who are in favor of shrinking the federal government and reducing the national debt. In 2010, however, the Tea Party Express was embroiled in controversy when its leader wrote a blog praising the slave trade. He quickly resigned.
Sal Russo is chief strategist for the Tea Party Express. He told WFPL the movement remains successful because voters are tired of Washington’s ineffectiveness, which is often tied to perpetual incumbents.
“The zeitgeists of the times are clearly people are concerned about the increasing size, cost and intrusiveness of the federal government with an unsustainable and skyrocketing national debt. I think that’s what people are concerned about. So I think to the extent that candidates address that they’re going to do well,” he says.
This leg of the tour is focusing on the Indiana Senate race, where the group is backing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock over incumbent Dick Lugar in the Republican primary. The race has become a closely watched contest with Mourdock set to possibly upset the six-term incumbent on May 8.
Russo says Indiana is an important state in terms of Republicans taking back the Senate and establishing a conservative majority and agenda.
“I think times have changed,” he says. “When Senator Lugar was first elected our finances weren’t quite as dire and people prized public officials who were getting along and going along, but I think that ‘get along, go along’ attitude unfortunately in Washington has created a mess.”
But as political observers point out, the GOP infighting in the Indiana primary could give the seat to Democrats, which explains their sometimes quiet support of Mourdock.
The morning tea party rally is scheduled for 9:30 am Saturday in Madison at the Historic Broadway Tavern and another rally is set for 3 pm in Corydon at the 1st State Capitol of Indiana building.