The Blog

Tea Party Down Under

10:05 AM, Dec 14, 2009 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
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It turns out that insurgent, populist Conservatives are scoring victories Down Under as well as in America -- and Tea Partiers and Palinistas here in the States would do well to watch conservative Aussie leader Tony Abbott very closely.

Abbott became leader of the right-wing Liberal party two weeks ago after the party's parliamentary representatives turfed ex-leader Malcolm Turnbull in the wake of Climategate. Turnbull had announced that the party would support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's cap-and-trade legislation, causing a rebellion in his caucus, and he was tossed in favor of Abbott -- a right winger and climate change skeptic.

The media labeled Abbott's elevation a disaster. After all, they said, the public was fully behind Rudd's climate schemes -- and a blunt-talking "extremist" like Abbott would force moderates out of the Liberal party and cause the vote to collapse. Turnbull supposedly proved them right by "going rogue," posting a blog that labelled Abbott's climate stands "bulls**t". He further declared that any future Liberal climate plan would be "a con."

Abbott's goose was cooked before he even found his feet.

Or was it? target=_blank>Polls last week showed that 23 percent of Australians think Abbott would be a better Prime Minister than Rudd -- 9 percent higher than Turnbull's dismal 14 percent showing the previous week -- and the Liberal party has picked up 4 percent in general election polls. Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports the Abbott is trying to reclaim the working-class voters who put Liberal John Howard in the Prime Minister's office and then deserted him to install Rudd -- and he has the message to do it. Rudd is pushing a huge cap-and-tax plan, and many Australians are rightly worried about whether the prime minister is too busy playing global-warming-messiah to worry about the recession. These Joe Six Pack voters were once known as "Howard's battlers", and as of today their new leader has re-christened them "Abbott's Army". In a way -- it's like watching the Tea Party movement swallow the GOP from the inside, and the polls are going up rather than down as a result.

If this is a collapse, then parties should collapse more often.