Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Stop at Biting Off Your Nose?

In one of those "Polls don't tell you everything" moments, as by now pretty much everybody has heard, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary race to a guy who appears to be wholly unqualified for public office by any objective standard -- but who happens to be a reactionary Tea Partier. A column in the New Yorker observes that, until now, the Republican establishment had been doing a good job at having their preferred candidates beat Tea Party challengers,
Jim Messina, Obama’s former campaign manager, tweeted gleefully, “Eric Cantor losing. So much for the R’s “tea party doesn’t control us” narrative.” He added, “That vomiting sound you hear is wise R’s who just realized what the ‘16 nominee will have to say & do to get thru primary.”

But this might be taking the argument too far. Clearly, the Tea Party hasn’t gone away, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. In most big primary contests around the country, the G.O.P. establishment candidates have won, and those from Tea Party have been routed.
It does appear that when the Republicans carefully select candidates for open seats where they will face Tea Party challengers, and carefully support incumbents likely to face strong Tea Party challenges, they have developed a pretty good skill set for defeating challengers in key districts. The lesson here seems to be that you can't trust the polls, and had best apply that type of energy and skill set to every race in which you don't want a Tea Party challenger to potentially score an upset victory -- or be prepared for some surprising upsets.

Among the joys of elevating the Tea Party as a core constituency, not only that you have to cater to their politics in a manner that can turn off independent and swing voters, it's that they don't seem at all likely to forget that their power is at the primary level. Cantor's defeat is going to re-energize them. These challenges are going to continue.

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