Power Players

Tea Party leader: Lindsey Graham “begging for a primary” challenge

Power Players

Top Line

FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe has a warning for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other GOP incumbents up for reelection in the 2014: don’t expect Tea Party support just because you’re already in Congress.

“It's utterly contrary to Republican philosophy, we believe in competition, we believe in open democratic processes and I think that leads to better candidates,” Kibbe tells Top Line.

Kibbe singles Graham out as one of his Super PAC’s major targets in the midterm elections, citing Graham’s criticism of the filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone program led by Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) as a major reason for replacing him.

“The way he lashed out against Rand Paul…he's begging for a primary,” says Kibbe, who continues on to say that he hopes to replace Graham with someone “who is worthy of that seat.”

Kibbe says FreedomWorks is also looking to make gains for Tea Party candidates in Arkansas and Alaska come 2014 and says he’s not concerned about protecting Republican incumbents--as Republican strategist Karl Rove has advocated in some cases--if they don’t represent Tea Party interests.

“Maybe it's good if you're a sitting senator, but it's not good for the Republican Party and it's certainly not good for public policy,” Kibbe says.

When asked about cases when a Tea Party candidates beats out an incumbent in the primary but then loses in the general election, Kibbe says: “Generally, I don't think that's true. If you can't win a primary, the supposition that you can win the general is pretty questionable. Competition is better.”

He also said there are some 2014 races where FreedomWorks will likely not get involved, such as the Massachusetts Senate race with Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez.

“I would suggest that it might be the case that Republicans running in Massachusetts don’t necessarily want FreedomWorks’ support,” Kibbe jokingly said, in acknowledgement that Tea Party backing is not generally an asset in the very blue state.

On the topic of legislation passed by the Senate to impose a sales tax for online retailers, Kibbe says it will not equalize the playing field between brick-and-mortar stores and online businesses, as the legislation’s advocates have argued. But he believes it will instead give an advantage to big retailers over small online businesses.

“The biggest advocates of taxing online would be big online retailers, like Wal-Mart, like Amazon,” Kibbe says.“The Internet is the wave of the future, this is how we're going to make our purchasing decisions and everything else, and to tax it, to regulate it, to control it from Washington: bad idea,” Kibbe says.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where it is not expected to pass.

To hear more of the interview with Kibbe, including why he calls the Bush legacy a disaster that is responsible for President Obama’s being elected, check out this episode of Top Line.

ABC's Alexandra Dukakis, Eric Wray, Omar Quinonez, and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.

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