The battle is on in the Buckeye State. The Tea Party is out to banish the statist neo-conservatives that control Ohio's Grand Old Party (GOP). What should political observers make of the fact that there were no statewide Republican candidates on the stage at the massive Tea Party rally at the Ohio Statehouse on Tax Day? One of the reasons why is obvious. The staid statewide GOP candidates are being challenged everywhere by angry Republican insurgents linked to the Tea Party.

In the race for Secretary of State, John Husted, a suburban Dayton Republican state senator, is under fire from Tea Party favorite Sandra O'Brien. Husted is so threatened by O'Brien that he's taken to running faux Tea Party-type ads. The Husted spot begins with the Tea Party's favorite image – the waving of a "Don't Tread On Me" flag. The voiceover claims that: "Defending our liberty begins with leaders who fight for our families."

Why would Husted worry about O'Brien? Well, for one thing, in 2006 O'Brien knocked off the moderate Party-backed incumbent State Treasurer Jeanette Bradley. This defeat in many ways signaled the first shot in the struggle between Libertarian-leaning Republican conservatives and the neocons who flourished under the Voinovich and Taft gubernatorial administrations. Bradley, an African American, was the last Republican to serve on the Columbus City Council and the former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio. In the mainstream Republican scenario, the GOP would simply clean the clocks of the equally staid corporate Dems.

These Tea Party-backed primary challenges threaten control over the state Apportionment Board that will draw the geographic boundaries for the next ten years for both congressional and Statehouse races. Not only is Husted in a contested primary for Secretary of State, but that seat is one of the five positions on the Ohio Apportionment Board. Also, the teabaggers are challenging another Ohio Apportionment Board position by backing Representative Seth Morgan in his race against Delaware County Prosecuting Attorney David Yost for State Auditor.

A recent New York Times/CBS news poll provided insight into the nature of the 18% of the population who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters. More than any other group in our society, they see the national government as headed in the wrong direction. While 73% of American adults "disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job," 96% of all teabaggers disapprove.

This anti-government sentiment and belief in small government puts them at odds with the corporatist and neoconservative Republicans who have historically favored "government/business partnerships" in Ohio. The Third Frontier program was established by the Taft administration to use public monies to promote high-tech private sector development in Ohio. Chris Littleton, President of the Ohio Liberty Council recently denounced the program as "corporate welfare" and "[a] gross distribution of wealth."

While only 48% of white independent voters claim "Obama's moving the country toward socialism," 93% of Tea Party supporters see socialism as Obama's agenda. As the Times poll found, Tea Partyers are "more likely to classify themselves as ‘angry.'" This anger is currently lashing out at the Republican Party establishment in the upcoming May 4 primary.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, culturally conservative forces, stirred into action by first the Moral Majority and later the Christian Coalition, took over the majority of state Republican Parties throughout the nation. What they wanted and got was a so-called "cultural war."

After the initial economic downturn under Ronald Reagan, the economy grew steadily during the rest of the 1980s. The brief economic stagnation under George Herbert Walker Bush made him a one-term president, despite his success and popularity during the first Gulf War. Bush's demise was in part due to an iconic amplification effect when some of the great business brand names in U.S. history – Sears and IBM – were hit hard financially.

When Democratic candidate Bill Clinton informed people that it was "the economy, stupid," he swept into office causing right-wing conservatives to launch into another round of the cultural wars. Here they had the first baby boom president, an admitted pot-smoking (though not inhaling) hippie who liked sex.

The Clinton years gave way to the rise of the big government neoconservative ideology of George W. Bush. In the aftermath of 911, there was a massive growth in the security-industrial complex matching the unprecedented growth of the prison industrial complex during the Reagan years, and the steady and unrelenting growth of the military industrial complex from Reagan through Bush-Clinton-Bush.

With the recent economic meltdown, the luxury of cultural wars – centered around gay marriage, abortion, and school prayer – have lost their luster. As one Tea Partyer at the Columbus rally told a Free Press reporter, the Tea Party doesn't talk about morals because morality is divisive.

What unites the teabaggers is economic fear. While 77% of adults in the poll rate the national economy "fairly bad" or "very bad," 93% of teabaggers rate it that way.

The Tea Party is likely to systematically take over the Republican Party of Ohio in an attempt to dismantle programs they see as supporting corporate welfare. Their hostility toward more traditional New Deal programs from the 1930s, like Medicare and Social Security are not as strong.

In many ways this movement is similar to those that backed Ross Perot's Reform Party in the early 1990s. Unlike that angry and activist middle class movement that was out to erase deficits and balance the budget, the Tea Party movement is much more right-wing and anti-government. After they gain control of the Republican Party and purge it of its neocon loyalists, they will take direct aim at Obama in the 2012 election.

Look for former Congressman, Fox news commentator, and Lehman Brothers manager to defeat Ted Strickland this fall. The inability of the Strickland and Obama administrations to put people back to work in Ohio and throughout the nation will allow anti-statist candidates like Kasich, favored by the tea-baggers, to gain key offices on promises to abolish income taxes and other feared government programs.

Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of