The speech itself was the most hard-line stump speech I’ve heard a conservative candidate give perhaps ever, though not in the John Boehner, podium-pounding “Hell No You Can’t“ mode. It wasn’t angry or even excessively passionate. But Pence effortlessly covered every shibboleth of both the Religious Right and the Tea Party. He heralded Tea Party victories around the country, including that of Christine O’Donnell, and credited the wins with pulling the current Republicans in Congress to the right. (Apparently, for Pence, being called the Party of No is a sign of the GOP’s health.) He cheered George W. Bush’s “courage” for pushing the surge in Iraq and said the CIA should be able to “fight wars like wars.” He talked about repealing Obamacare, “bondage to big government,” and obliquely opposed repealing the Bush tax cuts. For the values voter, this guy is the whole package and more.
This was a speech tailor-made for "values voters" and as such, tailor-made for Tea Partiers. I wrote about this last week, but if there's any big takeaway from this year's Values Voter Summit, it's that the Tea Party/social conservative divide is a semantic one; in addition to their vaguely libertarian ethos, Tea Partiers are also very socially conservative. Which puts lie to the idea that the Tea Party is a new phenomena on the right -- by and large, Tea Partiers are the same white conservative evangelicals that have long been the backbone of Republican grassroots efforts. Insofar that there's any difference, it's a mild one of emphasis and rhetoric, not substance.
-- Jamelle Bouie