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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - September 17, 2010

JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

David, how do you see the division, as it's called, between conservatives, social issues here, economic issues there, as was laid out in that piece?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don't think it's going to be a big problem. If you looked at the Glenn Beck rally that Mark and I were at, that was primarily -- used to be primarily a big-government issue. But Glenn Beck was very religious. Christine O'Donnell, in many ways, comes to this movement more through faith than through economics. And she was perfectly acceptable to the Tea Party voters and conservative voters in Delaware.

And I do think the merger of economics and values has risen to the fore. One thing you hear a lot from people is, they live on a block where their neighbors, they had mortgages that were underwater, and they walked away from those mortgages. And people say, that's a values problem. That's people not upholding their -- their -- the promises they have kept.

And a lot of our economic problems grow out of values problems. So, in the debate, I think a lot of these things have merged. I really don't think it will be a big problem.

JIM LEHRER: You don't think it will be a big problem, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think it's a problem -- and I think you will see it in these values voters -- that they feel they have gotten the short end of the stick, I mean, because of...

JIM LEHRER: It has all been about the economy.

MARK SHIELDS: All about economics. And, to a great extent, the Tea Party movement is about economics and size of government. It is not -- Christine O'Donnell being the exception, it is not a socially cultural-based movement. In fact, there is a libertarian instinct, impulse in it to some degree.

So, I think there's a sense that look, we have been a major part of this coalition. And who is even speaking to us?

JIM LEHRER: You're talking about the values...

MARK SHIELDS: The values folks. Who is even speaking to us? I mean, just as recently as six years ago, they were central to George Bush's reelection over John Kerry, when they put 35 same-sex marriage ballot questions on to get up and gin up the vote of values voters, who were opposed to same-sex marriage.

JIM LEHRER: What do you -- how do you read the primary results, particularly in Delaware, and how the Tea Party influenced that, and what this result means?

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Well, in the short term, obviously, it makes it much harder for Democrats -- or for Republicans to win the Senate. There's no question.

If you looked at the experts today, and a number of them were saying maybe the Republicans have like a 15 percent chance of winning that race, when...

JIM LEHRER: In Delaware?

DAVID BROOKS: In Delaware.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: But, of course, Castle, it would be good odds they would win. But, overall, if you talk to Republicans, they will say, we lost a few. In '94, Oliver North ran in Virginia and lost a Republican seat they should have won for the Senate. But that doesn't mean it was a bad year, '94, for Republicans.

So, Republicans would say: You know, we have all this enthusiasm. We have got high turnout in primary after primary. We are riding a wave that it is not because of us, but it's just because people want to get rid of the Democrats. And we're getting an unearned victory, but we will take an excess, like what happened in Delaware, in exchange for all the support we're getting in Kentucky, in Alaska, in Ohio.

And, so, their view is, I think in general, that this was unfortunate for the party, but, if it is a tradeoff, the Tea Party movement for the Republican Party is still a huge net plus.

JIM LEHRER: Is it a net plus for Democrats? It has been suggested by some pundits, as you know: Oh, this is terrific. We can now take Delaware. Oh, we can now take this state and that state, because they took -- because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party person.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I don't think there is any question that Democrats had privately conceded that Mike Castle, the twice governor, nine times congressman, and enormously popular incumbent member of Congress who was defeated on Tuesday night, would have won that seat for the Republicans. So...

JIM LEHRER: Fairly easy, according to the polls.

MARK SHIELDS: Fairly easily. And he was just...

JIM LEHRER: If that means anything anymore.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. Well, I think it does mean a lot.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: I was at his -- Castle headquarters on Tuesday night. And the sense of support was across. I mean, at least a third of the people there were Democrats, I mean, who supported him, I mean, that, so -- but I think I would say there is a parallel to the Tea Party, Jim.

And I agree with David. It's brought increased numbers and it's brought greater energy. I mean, for the first time since 1930, first time in 80 years, there has been a greater participation in a midterm election in Republican primaries than there has been in Democrat. So, that's irrefutable.

But the parallel is this. The group -- when a new group comes into the party, an insurgent group, as the Tea Party folks are, it's comparable to what happened to the Democrats with the anti-war movement in the 1970s. They come in. They bring great energy. They bring great passion. There's no self-doubt.

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