By A.B. Stoddard - 05/21/14 07:56 PM EDT
The bums are back. After years of anti-incumbent fervor among Republican voters, those stale Washington insiders have made a comeback, handily winning primaries in Kentucky and Idaho, along with the business-friendly sellouts who prevailed in Georgia and Oregon. All of the results left the Tea Party with a sour aftertaste, and force them to unite behind the very candidates they have spent millions to defeat.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) destroyed Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin by 24 percentage points, showing he had consolidated his base in time for November. Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin said Bevin was badly outspent by the establishment fighting for the status quo but then acknowledged her group wanted Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes to lose in November. She warned McConnell: “As conservatives, we must unite toward that goal. Now, Senator McConnell must reach out to conservatives and espouse the values of liberty. If he does, and rejects ObamaCare and amnesty, he’ll prevail in November.
The Tea Party’s candidates of choice also lost in Oregon, where surgeon Monica Wehby easily won the nomination to take on Sen. Jeff Merkley this fall; in Georgia, where Republicans David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston bested the more conservative challengers to face each other in a runoff in July; and in Idaho, where the Club For Growth worked hard to defeat Rep. Mike Simpson, a close ally of Speaker Boehner, who is viewed by the Tea Party as deeply flawed due to his willingness to compromise and govern.
Democrats longing for the thrill of candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, the goofball insurgent conservatives who likely cost Republicans not only four U.S. Senate seats but also control of the Senate, on Wednesday licked their wounds along with their Tea Party enemies. The establishment victories on Tuesday continued a string of successes that saw challenges to Boehner and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) collapse, and included the establishment victory of state Speaker Thom Tillis in North Carolina over the two respective conservative picks of Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. Even the most promising Tea Party-backed candidate in the entire country this cycle, Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, seems to have managed to blow it, potentially rescuing six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran from a loss because his campaign possibly knew a blogger had broken into a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s wife before police were called.
Just because it just got easier for Republicans to win in November doesn’t mean it will be easy, however. McConnell is a 30-year incumbent whose popularity ratings are upside down, 52-40, and haven’t improved even slightly after spending nearly $12 million over the last year. His opponent is a young woman who has won statewide before, whose father is a fixture in the Democratic Party in Kentucky and who is likely to get campaigning help from former President Clinton, as well as his wife, a potential presidential candidate in 2016. But in contests throughout the country, it’s good news for Republicans that voters are choosing the bums they know instead of the dingbats they don’t.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.