Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, heading to Las Vegas to raise money for congressional candidate Niger Innis, said Saturday the influence of the tea party is growing despite some losses by primary candidates against incumbents across the nation.
Ever since the rise several years ago of the conservative tea party, which is against increasing taxes and for limited government, the Republican Party has been torn by divisions that have hurt the GOP at the ballot box.
But Cain argued the conservative movement has been good for the party in some ways because it has allowed fresh voices into the GOP and caused Republicans to focus more on basic small-government values.
“The tea party movement is causing some establishment candidates to move to the right, for example,” Cain said in a telephone interview.
“Even though the quote, unquote tea party-backed candidates may not be winning a lot of these contests, their influence is causing some of their establishment candidates to modify their views.”
Cain noted that establishment GOP candidates often have an edge in elections because they’re well-funded incumbents.
In Nevada, Innis, a member of the tea party movement, is running in Tuesday’s primary against Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, the establishment candidate who has the backing of GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and other top Republican leaders in the state.
Innis, however, has been endorsed by the Nevada Republican Party, which is dominated by conservatives, members of the tea party and supporters of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who twice ran for the GOP nomination for president, including in 2012.
Innis and Hardy are competing in the 4th Congressional District, which covers seven counties in Southern Nevada, including northern Clark County. The GOP winner will face freshman incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., in the Nov. 4 general election.
Innis backed Cain’s presidential bid in 2012. Cain has helped Innis raise money before and is scheduled to attend a closed fundraiser for the GOP contender today at a private Las Vegas home. The cost is $1,000 for a private reception with Cain or $25 for a general reception.
Cain praised Innis, who moved to Nevada in 2007 from New York and, like Cain, is a popular conservative TV and radio talk show regular. Cain has his own radio show based in Atlanta that airs five days a week.
“He would bring a fresh voice in support of what I call conservative principles — less government, less taxes and more individual responsibility,” Cain said of Innis.
“Secondly, I know his character. I know that Niger would carry out his responsibilities with great integrity.”
Although tea party candidates have not fared well this primary season, in some key races they have successfully challenged incumbents.
In one of the most closely watched races, six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is in a runoff with tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel after neither candidate got 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.
Cain accused Democrats of “demagoguing” tea party members to blame the conservative movement for all that’s wrong with Congress, including the GOP-run House where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has had trouble managing dozens of tea party-backed freshmen.
Immigration reform is one example where members of the movement have blocked votes because they don’t favor “a faster path to U.S. citizenship,” according to Cain. Innis backs immigration reform.
“The system needs to be cleaned up,” said Cain, who argued for better enforcement of current immigration laws rather than a major overhaul. “Immigration reform is really immigration repair.”
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