A Tea Party Champion Faces Political Reality in New Hampshire

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Back in January, Tea Partying businessman Jack Kimball sprang an upset in New Hampshire, toppling an establishment-backed Republican to become the chair of the Granite State’s GOP. Kimball, 64, had a paper-thin political resume headlined by a losing bid for governor. But his purist politics won him fans within the state’s burgeoning Tea Party movement, and he edged a more seasoned candidate by 23 votes.

It’s a familiar story, but now, just months into his tenure, this version looks set to end ignominiously. Last week the pillars of the state’s political establishment–including Senator Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Representatives Charlie Bass and Frank Giunta and influential state-level figures–called on Kimball to step down, citing a pattern of fiscal mismanagement, strategic blunders and political ineptitude. Members of the state’s executive committee are set to meet Thursday night to vote on Kimball’s ouster. The New Hampshire Union-Leader reports that as many as 28 of the panel’s 36 members are ready to remove Kimball.

To Tea Party detractors, Kimball’s tumultuous tenure underscores the perils of installing political neophytes in high-octane political jobs. Opponents say Kimball lacked the wherewithal to head up operations for the critical first-in-the-nation primary state, exhibiting poor message discipline and dropping two winnable special elections. (The National Review catalogs the array of gripes here.) Kimball has acknowledged his shortcomings but defended his overall performance, noting that his fund-raising tally is among the state GOP’s highest of the past decade and poised to improve. His backers argue that his ouster is hasty and unwarranted. But the pressure is intensifying — Kimball alleges that the RGA offered $100,000 for his resignation, a charge the organization denies — and with it, the spotlight on the messy spat. At this point, even Kimball and his allies appear resigned to a change in leadership; one told the Concord Monitor that Kimball was willing to step down if national donors would help retire the state party’s debt.

It’s hard to say if Republicans caught up in the anti-establishment frenzy will notice the episode, but it seems a pertinent lesson for today’s GOP. The public is sick of career politicians, and for good reason — but the outsiders often don’t fare any better.