The tea party segment of the New Hampshire Republican Party had enough sway to put Jack Kimball in his current hot seat as party chairman.
1). Does the tea party still wield enough strength to keep him there?
2) If not, if Kimball doesn’t hold onto the party’s chairmanship, what is next for the tea party?
The answer to Question 1 is likely no.
When the NH GOP executive committee meets on Thursday, Sept. 1, it will try to remove Kimball from the post he assumed after the chairmanship of former Gov. John Sununu.
Sununu represented the establishment Republicans, while Kimball, who had run for governor in 2010, represents the growing tea party movement within the GOP.
But while the tea party might have helped give Kimball the chairmanship, it doesn’t look like it will be able to keep him there in the face of criticism of lackluster fundraising, the loss of two special elections to Democrats, the messy firing of the party’s executive director and an improper entreaty to the Libertarian Party.
Even some tea party Republicans want Kimball out because of the distraction the party in-fighting is causing in the run up to the first-in-the-nation 2012 presidential primary that is essentially an all-Republican affair.
The two most prominent of these Republicans are Congressman Frank Guinta and House Speaker William O’Brien.
Both have tea party credentials, both signed a letter along with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Congressman Charlie Bass and Senate President Peter Bragdon asking Kimball to step down.
Kimball has refused and said those who want him out will have to look him in the eye and vote him out on Thursday.
The loss of Kimball — and the loss of some of the tea party image — won’t have a direct bearing on the future and course of the presidential primary. It is a mechanism far larger than the state Republican party, though the party can play a role in terms of sponsoring rallies and fundraisers.
The larger question is what happens to the tea party in New Hampshire in the face of the coup d’etat that establishment Republicans will orchestrate on Sept. 1?
Is there an opportunity here for an official Tea Party that will sponsor its own candidates against established Democrats, Republicans and, to a lesser extent, Libertarians and other third parties?
Will tea party voters turn against the letter signers (Ayotte, Guinta, Bass, O’Brien, and Bragdon) when it comes to their re-elections?
One to watch is Ovide Lamontagne.
He’s a Republican. He’s a tea party Republican. He holds true to the tea party ideals. And he’s going to run for governor in 2012.
If the fissure in the NH GOP is deep enough, will he emerge as an official Tea Party candidate or will he emerge as a disgruntled tea party member of the Republican party?
A divided Republican party that splits its votes will only help Democrats in 2012 restore some of what it lost in 2010 here in New Hampshire.
A separate Tea Party, however, that marshals voter discontent with the major parties — the establishment — could be a whole new equation the likes of which New Hampshire politics hasn’t seen in quite some time. That’s the answer to Question 2.
Paul Briand is an editor/blogger for the non-partisan, non-profit Live Free or Die Alliance.