National Tea Party groups breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday night after notching two much-needed primary wins as they work to overcome early disappointments this cycle.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and Citizens United all trumpeted Midland University President Ben Sasse’s nomination in the Nebraska Republican Senate primary and former Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney’s nomination for West Virginia’s 2nd District as a product of the conservative movement triumphing over the establishment.
The SCF spent $90,000 to boost Mooney in the seven-way primary to replace Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.), who is running for Senate, and $1.1 million on Sasse’s candidacy in the four-way Nebraska primary.
The SCF’s executive director, Matt Hoskins, touted Mooney’s win as an underdog emerging victorious, and declared that Sasse “will lead the fight to repeal ObamaCare” in the Senate.
David Bossie, president of Citizens United, declared Sasse’s win “a major victory for the conservative movement against the Washington establishment,” a reference to Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Hogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE’s (R-Ky.) reported opposition to Sasse’s candidacy.
And Madison Project said of Mooney that he’s “shown that he is not scared of the liberal special interests in both parties and will always fight for West Virginia’s conservative values, even if that means bucking party leadership.”
The Club for Growth, who often takes a much more pragmatic approach to its primary picks, also backed Sasse early on in his campaign. It noted its members donated more than $363,000 to his campaign and its super-PAC spent more than $500,000 to back his candidacy.
But the groups’ victory lap may be premature, as conservatives face even tougher fights in a series of upcoming primaries that are less likely to turn out in their favor.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose primary challenger Matt Bevin was endorsed by the SCF, Madison Project and others, is heavily favored in his primary next Tuesday, and Tea Party-favorite candidates have faltered in the Georgia Republican Senate primary, opening a path for establishment picks David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston (R) to emerge as likely runoff contenders. In Idaho, conservatives appear to be abandoning their challenge to Rep. Mike Simpson (R), a top target whose primary is also next Tuesday.
Two weeks after that, Tea Party groups have with Mississippi perhaps their best shot at taking down an incumbent senator, but Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.), appears to be holding strong against his primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. In that race, the SCF, Club for Growth and Madison Project have all weighed in for McDaniel.
While Tuesday night's primaries confirm it's too early to declare the demise of the Tea Party, it's also too early to tell if a good Tuesday night showing foretells better news down the line for the movement.