Tesla once stood for everything most Republicans hated. The bold automaker offered green technology, federal stimulus loans and it was sleek and sexy looking to boot.
Famous Republicans like former 2012 Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney called Tesla “a loser.”
Sarah Palin complained that Tesla was an example of “crony capitalism” because they said Tesla used $465 million in taxpayer money to build novelty cars for the rich. (We won’t get into Palin’s own over-the-top and out-of-control spending on clothes during her 2008 Vice-Presidential run, that’s a different blog.)
But the sexy car that could has recently found Republicans as varied as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and even Fox News wunderkind Bill O’Reilly coming out in its favor.
On March 31, Tesla got a surprising endorsement from the usually bullish O’Reilly, who, on his show, said: “Everybody on the planet should be rooting for Tesla. I mean everybody, even the traditional car companies that will have to compete.”
Soon after, Perry and Rubio came out swinging against their states’ laws that won’t allow Tesla to sell directly to customers.
So why are Republicans suddenly trying to be cool?
Analysts say support of something as cool and hip as Tesla might help the party look pro-business and make inroads in Silicon Valley, which is mostly thought of as a Democratic territory. The pro-Tesla image makes Republicans look like they support economic change, Mark Muro a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution said.
Tesla is also successful, regularly trading stocks above $200 per share, and Republicans who love their money are more apt to endorse a business seen as a success over one that isn’t. It doesn’t hurt that Tesla, which had one $465 million in federal loans to reopen a shuttered plant paid their debt in full – nine years early.
Tesla is seen as a rebel because it routinely bucks tradition and tries to sell its product in a different way than other car dealers. This mavericky approach could also change Republican hearts because it illustrates the party line around supporting free markets.
Through innovation, Tesla is also seen as a great economic engine, something any politician – yes even Republicans – are wont to align with.
“Innovation – doing something no one else is doing – is the way you can explosively grow an economy,” Rubio said. “Regulations are an impediment to innovation. … Regulations should never be used as a defensive weapon by an established industry or an established company to keep out competition.”
Supporting a hot commodity like Tesla also helps Republicans reach beyond their conservative base and grab those undecided voters that tend to go either way, depending on the issue.
A popular Republican ethos stands behind American entrepreneurship and businesses that stand on their own to forge their way to success. Quite frankly, that’s something any politician would want to align themselves with.
Who knows, maybe even the fading Palin, whose star needs the kind of kick a renewed endorsement of Tesla could offer, will join Perry, O’Reilly and Rubio in the sudden Tesla love. Think of it as the 2014 Republican Remix.