The line between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party has blurred. That spells trouble for the GOP in the long run. Possibly this year, more likely in 2016.
It might not look like it right now. The Republican establishment, which has been on the defensive since the Tea Party emerged in 2009, is on a roll. Establishment candidates have won contested primaries in North Carolina, Florida and now Kentucky and Georgia. Republican voters seem to be turning away from the kinds of fringe candidates they went for in 2010 and 2012, like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware (“I am not a witch”) and Todd Akin in Missouri (“legitimate rape”). Candidates like that cost Republicans their chance to take back control of the U.S. Senate.
So this year, the party stands a good chance of taking over the Senate and expanding its majority in the House of Representatives. The Obama era is over!
Oh, wait. Barack Obama is still president. And the Republican Party’s long-term problems are far from resolved. For one thing, the party’s good fortune this year is mostly the result of temporary advantages: – Democratic Senate seats up for grabs in strongly Republican states; Democrats defending House seats they won narrowly in 2012.
For another thing, the Tea Party is not exactly vanquished. Establishment candidates may be winning primaries — but that’s because most of them have moved right and pre-empted the Tea Party’s message.