“We had a dream and the dream is still with us,” said McDaniel to an increasingly vocal crowd, telling them that the fight is not over. “Today the conservative movement took a backseat to liberal Democrats in Mississippi.”

The more than 200 supporters gathered in the Hattiesburg Lake Terrace Convention Center were just as angry as McDaniel about the loss to Cochran, which virtually assures the 76-year-old an easy win toward a seventh term in the general election.

They cheered his defiance and chanted “Write Chris In!” as he took the stage and calling out “It’s not over Chris” and “We’re not going with Thad.”

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he Tea Party has been declared reborn, on life support, alive and well, and dead as a door nail – and that’s all been in the last three months.

But, in spite of scathing public disapproval of Washington and a flood of funding from conservative outside groups, it’s clear that Tea Party-backed insurgents aren’t packing the punch they once did against the GOP’s more pragmatic wing.

“Reports of their death were premature and reports of their resurgence are premature,” says Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “But it’s definitely fair to say they are diminished.”

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In Mississippi, challenger Chris McDaniel failed to dethrone six-term incumbent Senator Thad Cochran in the second round of their hard-fought contest. In Oklahoma, Representative James Lankford won by a massive margin over conservative favorite T.W. Shannon. The Tea Party industrial complex—groups like the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, figures like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz—invested heavily in both races and came up short. Now both of these red states will almost assuredly send Republican senators to Washington who owe the national Tea Party nothing, and quite likely wish it ill.

Wasn’t the Tea Party supposed to have come roaring back after then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Virginia primary a couple of weeks ago? Conservatives hoped Cantor’s toppling was a sign that there was more pent-up anti-incumbent sentiment than previously thought. But at this point, Cantor seems more an aberration than a portent. Part of the reason no one saw his defeat coming was that it cut so starkly against this trend.

In state after state this Republican primary season—particularly in Senate races—candidates acceptable to the party’s business wing have defeated, co-opted, or marginalized right-wing populists.

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Establishment-aligned groups have already spent some $23 million on independent expenditures propping up favored House and Senate candidates in contentious primaries, according to a POLITICO review of Federal Election Commission records. In comparison, that’s the same sum of money that Republican nominees raised and spent in the 2012 North Dakota, Indiana and Nevada Senate races combined — three of the most competitive campaigns fought that year.

The scope of the effort to suppress activist-backed candidates has been broader and costlier than is widely understood, covering at least 20 House and Senate primaries from North Carolina to California, and from coastal Mississippi to the outer tip of Long Island. The loose coalition of establishment forces encompasses two dozen advocacy groups, industry associations and super PACs that have raised and spent millions on behalf of Washington’s chosen candidates.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said the “quote ‘establishment’” had successfully divided up the primary map this year to avoid duplicating each others’ efforts. Eventually, Duncan said, outside groups on the right may realize that they’re better off working with the national party than raging against it. Indeed, in many cases this year, national party favorites have tacked well to the right to win their primaries.

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The head of tea party group said Wednesday that state Sen. Chris McDaniel should wage a write-in campaign in the November election after losing to Sen. Thad Cochran in a nasty Mississippi primary race.

Judson Phillips, the vocal leader of Tea Party Nation, an online group that backed Mr. McDaniel in the race, said that Mr. Cochran and his allies made it abundantly clear in the contest that the “RINO wing” of the Republican party will do whatever it can to stay in power — in this case by reaching out to Democrats.

“When the Republican Establishment acts like Democrats, what is the point of supporting them?” Mr. Phillips said in an early morning email blast. “The answer is, we don’t have to.”

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The problem for those who call themselves Republicans is that it is harder and harder to say exactly what a Republican is these days. The great lesson from Mississippi is that Republican means, more or less, that if elected the party will reward its major donors, who are just different than the Democrats’ major donors. Policy differences are about different donors, not an actual agenda to shift the country in a different direction.

The Republicans have become the party of lobbyists, most of whom were on twitter celebrating their purchase.

Mississippi is a crystalizing election in that sense. Cochran is, for all intents and purposes, a marionette. His strings are pulled by staffers and lobbyists. They drop him onto the stage of the Senate and pull up a string to raise his hand. These puppeteers are so invested in keeping their gravy train going that they will, while claiming to be Republicans, flood a Republican primary with Obama voters to ensure their gravy train continues…

But this becomes a longer term problem for the Republican Party. Its core activists hate its leadership more and more. But its leadership are dependent more and more on large check writers to keep their power. Those large check writers are further and further removed from the interests of both the base of the party and Main Street. So to keep power, the GOP focuses more and more on a smaller and smaller band of puppeteers to keep their marionettes upright. At some point there will be more people with knives out to cut the strings than there will be puppeteers with checkbooks. And at some point those people with knives become more intent on cutting the strings than taking the place of the marionettes.

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Via MFP.

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“If Republicans are gonna act like Democrats, then what’s the use?”