The Fix Whistles Past the GOP Greybeard Graveyard

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 15 2012 8:24 AM

The Fix Whistles Past the GOP Greybeard Graveyard

We subscribers to Chris Cillizza's "Morning Fix" email received some truly strained punditry today, the morning of a possible establishment upset in Nebraska's GOP U.S. Senate primary.

The proximity of this race to Richard Mourdock’s upset of Sen. Richard Lugar last week in Indiana will lead many to think we’re in another anti-establishment primary season. That’s a mistake. About the only races where we are seeing insurgent candidates challenge establishment favorites are Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. Arizona isn’t really a tea party race — Rep. Jeff Flake has both establishment and tea party support — and the GOP isn’t going to lose in Texas. So about the only seats where Republicans could see their chances hurt are in Michigan and Wisconsin.
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That's a long list of states, isn't it? Now, we can see Cillizza's point. In 2010, as the argument goes, the Tea Party blew it for Republicans in three states -- Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada. In 2012, the Tea Party may only make Senate races riskier in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana. I count three states and... three states.

And while I see Cillizza's point, I don't see how you get from there to "we're not in another anti-establishment primary season." Cillizza left Utah off his list. Add it on, and you have six states where the Tea Party/Club for Growth/et al are challenging incumbents or the party establishment. To respond to their challenges, the establishment Republicans have had to move right -- Pete Hoesktra endorsing 9-9-9 in Michigan, Tommy Thompson recanting his health care ideas in Wisconsin, and Orrin Hatch becoming a much more conservative ranking member on Finance. The Mourdock win might not be copied in any more primaries, but that will be because other Republicans made more consessions to the movement loosely described as "Tea Party." So, yes. We're in another anti-establishment season.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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