Dear Tea Party, Thanks for the Senate. Love, the Democrats.

What Women Really Think
Nov. 2 2010 10:16 PM

Dear Tea Party, Thanks for the Senate. Love, the Democrats.

This post has been updated to reflect Tuesday’s results.

The GOP isn’t going to take the Senate, but it came awfully close.  It’s going to hold at least 47 Senate seats, though we might not know for a while whether it’s Joe Miller or Lisa Murkowski representing Alaska in the Senate.

Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.

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But if Ken Buck can beat Michael Bennet in Colorado or Dino Rossi can upset Patty Murray in Washington, the Democrats will hold a slim 52-48 majority, with ties being broken by Vice President Joe Biden.  Still, with only two more victories, the Republicans could have caused major headaches for the Democrats in the Senate.  And let’s see… were there any races where the GOP might be shaking its head over the primary results? Say, Delaware or Nevada?

Delaware could have been a relatively easy pickup for the GOP but instead was one of the night’s biggest Democratic blowouts: Chris Coons beat upstart/onetime witch/ladybug/masturbation opponent/crazy lady Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party darling and most covered candidate of the 2010 midterms. And in Nevada, Harry Reid-once considered so toxic that his son Rory didn't even play up his familial connection in his bid for Nevada governor-beat Tea Party fave Sharron Angle.

O’Donnell garnered the Tea Party’s support for being a "true conservative" as compared to Mike Castle’s squishy moderate-ness.  That’s great for primaries, but it clearly doesn’t help so much in the general election.  The reason that Republican politicians from blue states win is precisely because they are more moderate. (On the flip side, it’s also why you see so many "Blue Dog" Democrats in the conservative West.) The Tea Party seemed to realize this when it supported Scott Brown in the Massachussetts special election.

The Tea Party is nascent, and its enthusiastic idealism is to be expected. And In the long run, the kick in the pants it’s providing might be exactly what the Republican Party needs. But tonight, O’Donnell’s huge loss should serve as a cautionary tale. It’s great to get candidates nominated. But if you want them to win, well, first of all they should be able to speak coherently about the First Amendment, the Constitution, and how they will vote once in office. But their views also need to align with those of their entire district or state, not just those who vote in primaries.

Correction, Nov. 3: An earlier version of this post described Hawaii as a toss-up when it should have said it was a solid Democratic seat.