LAS VEGAS -- I was talking to Mitchell Tracy, a longshot candidate for county commission in Clark County, when the gigantic Fox News screen in front of us announced that Rep. Barney Frank had been re-elected in Massachusetts. Tracy shrugged.
"Yeah, that's a real surprise," he said. "Did anyone think Frank could lose?"
Actually, yes! For weeks, Frank challenger Sean Bielat built up a following in the conservative blogosphere, and in the Tea Party, with breathless reports of how he was closing the gap and making Frank sweat. And Frank spent $200,000 of his own money on the race. But he survived easily. And what's happening with the rest of the people that Tea Partiers hoped could be powered into Congress on a wave?
-- Ilario Pantano, a former banker and Marine veteran who seemed to be surging in North Carolina's 7th District, is going down in a fairly close race.
-- Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazelton, Penn., and a proto-Tea Party candidate in 2002 and 2008 -- he won national fame for a tough crackdown on illegal immigration -- has finally defeated Paul Kanjorski.
-- Allen West, another veteran, who ran and came up short in 2008, and whom incumbent Ron Klein tried to portray as completely violent and insane , is holding on to a sizable lead.
-- Renee Ellmers, who won national attention after her opponent Bob Etheridge bullied two people interviewing him on camera, is in a dead heat.
-- Dan Benishek, a doctor and first-time candidate whose challenge to Bart Stupak looked hopeless until Stupak up and quit, won his race.
We're going to get a better picture of all this as the West Coast comes in.
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