Bennet Wins, Murkowski Leads, and the flaw of the "Tea Party Cost GOP the Senate" Meme

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 3 2010 9:26 AM

Bennet Wins, Murkowski Leads, and the flaw of the "Tea Party Cost GOP the Senate" Meme

LAS VEGAS -- The Denver Post has made its call on what seems readily apparent: Michael Bennet will win most of the remaining votes in Colorado's U.S. Senate race and keep his seat. In Alaska, the vote for write-in candidates has exceeded the vote for Joe Miller now by a sizable margin, around 13,000 out of 199,701 total votes. What happens now in that state is a long count, with Murkowski presumed by us corrupt bastards in the media as the winner. If Murkowski does win the count, there'll be a determination by Miller's team on whether to challenge the write-in votes that don't exactly say "Lisa Murkowski."

And so here comes the meta-narrative : "Did the Tea Party cost the GOP control of the Senate?" The facts: Left to their own devices, Republicans would have had less conservative candidates in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware. They would have had no race at all in Alaska, which would have freed up some money -- not much -- for other races. And so theoretically we would be looking today at Democrats holding only 49 Senate seats with control of the body resting on the result in Washington state.

Advertisement

That's theoretical, though, and it 1) doesn't give the Tea Party credit for everything it did in House races, which is still being calculated, and 2) doesn't appreciate the ideological message sent by these races. The GOP now has a powerful bloc, with  ready money from the Club for Growth and Tea Party Express, that can and will destroy any "Republican in Name Only" with the full knowledge that it could be handing the seat to Democrats. This ripples far beyond the races the Tea Party wins. As Will Bunch likes to point out, the biggest Tea Party win might have been Arizona, where the movement pushed John McCain right. The threat of a primary in 2012 is going to have a serious impact on Olympia Snowe's decision making, because she's seen that even obviously doomed candidates in blue states, like Christine O'Donnell, can win primaries.

So, yes, Michael Bennet won. But the Tea Party made it clear that you cannot back a tax hike, as Jane Norton once did in Colorado, and expect to ever win a primary, as Buck eventually did over Norton. And what instrument do Democrats have to enforce ideological consistency like that?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.