Tea Partiers no doubt think last night was their moment of triumph but yet they need to think again. For now the spin out of Washington D.C is the Tea Party is to blame for Republicans being unable to win control of the U.S. Senate like they did the House, which means it will be difficult to overturn much of what was passed during the first half of the Obama Administration. And because the GOP has control of the House, where fewer actual Tea Party candidates (meaning those who either won Republican primaries over establishment candidates or those who were Tea Party favorites from beginning to end) were elected, the spin will also say “Did we really need the Tea Party to bring out our base which was going to turn out heavily any way in this bad economy?”
The results bare it out unfortunately. Only three real Tea Partiers won Senate seats, Mike Lee in Utah, Marco Rubio in Florida and Rand Paul in Kentucky. Getting the GOP nomination was tantamount to victory in Lee’s case in one-party state Utah, Rubio benefited from split opposition while Paul ran a more conventional Republican race in Kentucky. Jim DeMint’s dream of setting up a Tea Party bloc in the Senate basically died last night with the losses of Angle, Buck and O’Connell with Miller trailing in late returns in Alaska. Mitch McConnell is firmly in control of the GOP in the Senate and it will be interesting to watch if Paul becomes as iconoclastic as his father or becomes just another plastic soldier in Mitch’s toy army. As a new Senator, he’ll find out right away one the first duties he has is to raise money for re-election in 2016. Is he going to do money bombs every week, or is he going to rely on the party leadership to help him out? He’ll have to decide.
The establishment and the leadership is also firmly in control in the House where they now have the power. There are plans for a “tea party summit” by Mark Meckler and his Tea Party Patriots group for the new freshmen members of Congress to try organize plans to act as an independent bloc. But I highly doubt the first thing many of these new GOP members in the House want to do is to piss off Speaker Boehner and put their own chances of re-election (and many of these freshman won Tuesday by small margins) in jeopardy before they even take their seats in Congress. Had such highly visible Tea Party candidates been more successful, perhaps such new members would be more willing and more confident to strike out on their own. No such luck now.
The vote on the nation’s debt ceiling next year will be the first sign the “tea” in the Tea Party will go down the drain. Having been in Congress since 1985, Boehner will huff and puff about fiscal responsibility and will also provide the GOP votes necessary to raise the debt ceiling so along with the Democrats. He’s been in the Beltway long enough to know how the game works. The Tea Partiers no doubt shook up the Republican establishment over the past year but the establishment is now back in control because their people won and the Tea Partiers didn’t. Oh well, It was fun while it lasted.