Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tea Party Losing Battles But Winning GOP War

Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore says Tea Party candidates are losing races but succeeding in pushing the party ever further right on Talking Points Memo.

Still, toting it all up, we’ll see abundant assessments in the MSM today that Republicans avoided the sort of Senate primary upsets that spoiled the party’s prospects in 2010 and 2012...But despite the losing record of the tea folk in Senate primary battles, it’s apparent they are winning the war with the Republican establishment by pushing the entire party even further to the right.

We’ve seen the same dynamic with “establishment” winners Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and “moderate outsider” David Perdue of Georgia — and above all Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whose voting record tilted hard right in anticipation of his primary fight with Matt Bevin. There’s been a virtual cavalcade in the primaries of entire fields tilting against debt limit increases, comprehensive immigration reform (or even limited legalization of undocumented workers), any positive government role in economic policy, and of course, any accommodations for legalized abortion or same-sex marriage.

In weighing the direction of the GOP, it’s also important to note what’s been happening in the real world of congressional action, and the future world of jockeying for the 2016 presidential nomination. In the last week, what was the most important intra-party development? A right-leaning Pat Roberts beating a damaged Tea Party opponent? Or the fiery nativist Rep. Steve King shaping a crucial House immigration bill and then going home to Iowa to accept tributes from 2016 presidential prospects (sometimes to their obvious peril)?

No, it’s not entirely clear Republicans are ideally positioned for Senate races in 2014, and it’s less certain the GOP can “pivot” to a successful 2016 message with a very different presidential electorate and a presidential candidate field in which the highly divisive Scott Walker (if he survives his tough reelection campaign this year) could be scored a “moderate.” The complex dynamics pushing the GOP away from the political “center” have not abated this year one whit, even if its “Establishment” has largely fought off the ideological furies by sacrificing its integrity — and perhaps its future.

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