GOP House candidates performed above early-expectations and won the largest Republican majority in the lower chamber in several generations. But Tea Party favorites did not fare as well in Senate contests. Commentators like Karl Rove are pointing out that the Tea Party’s zeal or “fringiness” cost Republicans easy pick-ups in Delaware, Nevada, and potentially Colorado if Senator Bennet holds on against Ken Buck.
Tea Partiers will have to argue that it was worth losing those seats on principle. The case could go something like this. “We may have not have won the Senate, but that was unlikely in any case. Harry Reid had rebuilt the Nevada Democratic party by moving a primary to his state in 2008. And the sacrifice of Delaware was worth it to send a message to Republicans in office today and who plan to run for office tomorrow. We will pick candidates, not the RNC. Killing Jane Norton in Colorado will have salutary effects on McCain, Snowe, and other ‘moderates’. Besides, Republicans will be unlikely to set an agenda with a Democratic President. So why give Obama the chance to credibly campaign against obstructionist Republicans?”
In any case, the Tea Party may have learned a lesson that Karl Rove wanted them to learn. Candidates like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, who can get their message out through the media will win. Angle and O’Donnell who can’t, won’t. If the Tea Party exists in future elections it will face increasing internal pressure to pick Scott Browns in the short term, rather than build momentum for true blue Tea sippers for the future.
If last night’s results are any indication of how the Republican presidential primary will go in 2012, Romney’s head is probably being buffed for the spotlight as we speak. The Palinistas largely failed, while better groomed and positively protean candidates (like John McCain) succeeded.