Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the head of the Republican Senate campaign operation, said Tuesday that the GOP is working to head off the danger of the Tea Party movement forming a third party by getting its activists involved in the primary process.
"I think it's important that we try to channel these relative newcomers to the political process through our primaries so that they can have an impact on who's nominated. And hopefully they'll unite behind that nominee after the primary," he told reporters in the Capitol.
Cornyn was asked if he saw a danger that the anger that energizes the movement would overwhelm the party. "I don't think so. I think the greater danger is if they don't feel like they have a voice within the political parties that they choose to go the third parties route. I think that would be less desirable for all sorts of reasons," he said.
Cornyn and the GOP have a needle to thread. Their success so far has come from independents drifting away from Democrats and toward Republicans. But those independents might not find themselves at home with a party courting a Tea Party movement and a base increasingly disconnected from reality.
A new survey of 2,000 self-identified Republicans found that significant numbers believe the president was not born in the United States, is a socialist, is a racist and should be impeached and that their home state should secede from the union.
On Tuesday, Republican Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey volunteered that he was among those who doubted Obama's citizenship. Ramsey was asked if someone should sue Obama to reclaim the salary he's being paid as president.
"I've got a tableful of advisers sitting over there and they'll probably start cringing right about now when I start talking about some of this stuff right here," he said, according to the Nashville Scene. "I'm going to tell you something. I don't know whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not. I don't know what the whole deal is there. But I'm going to tell you something. When you walk out on the street down, people don't really care about this issue."
The Tea Party heads to Nashville this week for an annual convention headlined by Sarah Palin.
Cornyn, asked how the extreme views of his base will affect the political climate in the next year, returned to focus on the value of independents, dismissing those in the survey as voters "who are unaffiliated who have a variety of views."
"I think what really makes a difference in this environment is the fact that independents who elected this Democratic majority, and who elected Scott Brown in Massachusetts, that independents are flocking away from this administration and Democratic candidates, because they're scared of what single-party rule has meant in this country. You're going to have people in both political parties who are unaffiliated who have a variety of views but I think independents are the ones who are going to make a difference in the electoral outcome," he said.