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MSNBC's Fineman: Sounding 'Nuts' with 'Outrageous Statements' is a Plus in Tea Party

Media Research CenterOn Tuesday's All In show on MSNBC, during a discussion of Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman's primary challenge to Senator John Cornyn, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman asserted that, "if you don't make outrageous statements," the Tea Party movement will not consider you to be "serious."

Referring to some of Stockman's more controversial statements, Fineman reacted:

For the Tea Party people, their whole ethos is, if you don't make outrageous statements, you aren't serious. And it sounds nuts to a lot of the rest of the people in the country, but that's the world they live in. That's what turns them on. That's how they raise their money. That's how they turn out their vote.

Fineman and host Chris Hayes then played up the ideological battle and "circular firing squad" within the Republican Party, without noting similar struggles in recent years within the Democratic Party. Forgetting that Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak defeated incumbent Senator Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary in 2010, Hayes reacted to the Stockman-Cornyn race:

I was trying to think of the last time that a sitting Congress member in the House primaried someone from their own party, an incumbent sitting Senator, and I was having a hard, I mean, this is incredibly rare. It's one thing for some, you know, ex-dentist to say I'm going to get in the race and I'm going to bring the Tea Party message. It is another for someone from your state's congressional delegation to primary you.

Fineman responded:

Yeah, and I wish I had the deep knowledge to give you a ready answer for that, but this kind of stuff's been going on for a while. I do know a lot about Kentucky where I used to be a reporter where I started out and, sort of, there was the Jim Bunning versus McConnell stuff. I mean, there's been that, that has been increasingly the flavor, especially in the South and the border states, taking on other people and all that sort of, you know, sense of standing in line in the Republican Party has gone away.

He concluded:

It's very interesting. The Republican Party, everybody, the conventional wisdom was, the Republican Party was the, quote, "loyalist party." Everybody stood in line, that's totally, they're in a circular firing ring, firing squad now.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, December 10, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

CHRIS HAYES: And you've got a remarkable dynamic now. Cornyn's got a few advantages. He's first of all the incumbent Senator from Texas. He's got $7 million cash on hand. Stockman's got $32,000. And so at first you would say, "Well, this is, you know, this is not a contest." But other people have said that before, Mike Castle of Delaware, of course, probably thought that when he looked at Christine O'Donnell overall on the other side of the campaign trail.

But the issue here is Ted Cruz. So far he's said he's remaining neutral. Now, in Kentucky, you've got a dynamic where Rand Paul essentially gives Mitch McConnell cover.

He is the darling of the Tea Party right, and he has endorsed Mitch McConnell, and Mitch McConnell can draw on that credibility. Nothing like that is forthcoming so far for John Cornyn from Ted Cruz, and you've got to really wonder what John Cornyn's voting record is now going to look like in the next year if he's trying to beat back a Steve Stockman challenge.

HOWARD FINEMAN: Well, I think that's a good question, and I think that even though John Cornyn has, like, I think he has a 93 percent positive rating from the American Conservative Union, it's that other seven percent that's going to get all the attention from Stockman and from the Tea Party conservatives around the country.

They're not going to run away from Stockman no matter what crazy statements he made. And the interesting thing about this is, a part of it is stylistic. John Cornyn is a conservative. There's no doubt about it. But he attended Trinity University in San Antonio, a really excellent liberal arts school. He went to a good law school. He speaks with a sort of Texas patrician heir. He used to hang out with George W. Bush. He is an establishment Republican -- a conservative, but an establishment Republican. For the Tea Party people, their whole ethos is, if you don't make outrageous statements-

HAYES: That's right.

FINEMAN: -you aren't serious. And it sounds nuts to a lot of the rest of the people in the country, but that's the world they live in. That's what turns them on. That's how they raise their money. That's how they turn out their vote,

Do not forget in Virginia, in the recent election there, there was a Lieutenant Governor candidate who said the most outrageous things. You know, he got 46 percent, 47 percent of vote. All those people turned out, and they will turn out in a Republican primary for Steve Stockman.

HAYES: Cornyn today downplaying Stockman's entry, says, "I know everybody's focused on the most recent entrant, but there's I think six other people," and he said there's "lessons to be learned" from Ted Cruz's victory. The last thing here is the institutional dynamic. The absolutely breakdown of the Republican Party as a kind of, it's usual center.

I was trying to think of the last time that a sitting Congress member in the House primaried someone from their own party, an incumbent sitting Senator, and I was having a hard, I mean, this is incredibly rare. It's one thing for some, you know, ex-dentist to say I'm going to get in the race and I'm going to bring the Tea Party message. It is another for someone from your state's congressional delegation to primary you.

FINEMAN: Yeah, and I wish I had the deep knowledge to give you a ready answer for that, but this kind of stuff's been going on for a while. I do know a lot about Kentucky, where I used to be a reporter, where I started out, and, sort of, there was the Jim Bunning versus McConnell stuff. I mean, there's been that, that has been increasingly the flavor-

HAYES: Right.

FINEMAN: -especially in the South and the border states, taking on other people and all that sort of, you know, sense of standing in line in the Republican Party has gone away. It's very interesting. The Republican Party, everybody, the conventional wisdom was, the Republican Party was the, quote, "loyalist party." Everybody stood in line, that's totally, they're in a circular firing ring, firing squad now.