July 25, 2011 11:30 AM

Last Wednesday Big Government ran a post by Dan Riehl entitled: Ann Wagner Bests Ed Martin in Missouri's 2nd District on All Fronts. Riehl lays out the case for Ann Wagner which boils down to the fact that Wagner raised over $500,000 in the last quarter while Martin only raised about $100,000. After that, the article takes a detour through the fever swamp of FiredUpMissouri. Riehl, who lives on the east coast, was obviously not aware that FiredUp is the propaganda outlet for the Carnahan clan.

The fundraising numbers for the last quarter should concern Martin; however, it is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. This was Wagner's first quarter of fundraising in her first non-party political campaign, so she presumably plucked most of the low hanging fruit. Wagner has been active in the Missouri GOP for decades, so she's had to raise money and campaign before. She's not a neophyte. Martin originally announced for the US Senate in January and then bowed out when Todd Akin (R-MO) announced he would run to unseat Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The money that he raised during his short-lived Senate campaign was used to seed his bid to be a US Representative. That said, it will be hard, but not impossible, for Martin to close the money gap.

That money gap says more about the strategies that each of their campaigns will pursue to win the Republican nomination in Missouri's 2nd CD. Wagner will have the resources to mount an effective air campaign. Martin will be forced to fight on the ground. In other words, voters in the 2nd will see and hear Wagner more on TV and radio while they're more likely to meet Martin or one of his many volunteers at their front door.

In the 2010 election, Martin was able to mobilize a lot of volunteers. He built that base by attending events like the candidate debate held by the St. Charles Young Republicans last week and this past weekend's Lewis & Clark Pachyderm Club picnic. While Martin was at both of those events building his ground game, Wagner was unable to make either because she's focused on her air campaign. That campaign has her deployed to Washington, DC this week where she has a noon fundraiser today (7/25) and an evening one on Tuesday (7/26). I've received no word on whether she'll be visiting Todd Akin's (R-MO) office to measure for drapes, but she seems intent on buying that office.

The response I saw to Dan Riehl's post convinced me that Martin still has that base of committed volunteers that he built in the 2010 election cycle. I saw people I know in real life, commenting on Dan's article. I saw many tea partiers who had chosen to remain neutral in that race jump to defend Martin. But what really surprised me is that one person emailed me to say that they were so incensed that they planned to walk their neighborhood this weekend handing out Martin's literature. When someone is willing to canvas for a candidate a year before the primary in sweltering heat you know that the grassroots are on fire.

But it will take more than a brush fire to unite the grassroots. Tea Party and 9-12 groups need to make a concerted effort to take over the machinery of the Republican Party. This means getting involved in Republican Party politics, becoming a precinct committeeman/woman, and planning now to attend the 2012 Republican Caucus in your town. One grassroots group working to change the Republican party is the Missouri Precinct Project. Another one is Campaign for Liberty. C4L has experience and a bitter taste in their mouth from 2008.

That bitter taste is one reason it's important for Tea Party and 9-12 activists to get involved in Republican Party politics: the GOP has a habit of leaning on the scale to ensure the success of its preferred candidates. We can see this in the race between Wagner and martin. Currently, Wagner is serving as the Vice Chairwoman on the Missouri House Apportionment Commission. In that capacity she will help redraw Missouri's state house districts in the coming months. However, in her capacity as a candidate, she has contacted many of the state representatives in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District to ask them to endorse her campaign for the US House of Representatives. That puts each of those State Representatives in an awkward position. In fairness to Wagner, she is one of eighteen people that serve on the Apportionment Commission, so while this is a clear conflict of interest, it's unlikely that she would be able to act on that conflict.

You can make a difference in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District by volunteering for the candidate that best represents your Tea Party and 9-12 values, but if you want to transform the Republican establishment with those values, you must get involved in the Party. Groups like the Missouri Precinct Project and Campaign for Liberty are jumping off points for that involvement. Activists should seek out roles within the GOP with the goal of shepherding the establishment toward conservative ideals. We will know that the grassroots have succeeded once the party has been transformed.

Darin Morley publishes the blog RebootCongress.  He lives in St. Louis with his wife and children.

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If you want to transform the Republican establishment with those values, you must get involved in the Party.

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