Can Mike Lee save the tea party?

Lee, who spent half his childhood in Utah and half in McLean, Virginia, appeared to be on a more moderate track earlier in his career, working as an attorney in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, as well as general counsel to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. But in his 2010 Senate race he, like Cruz, ousted a sitting conservative Republican whose standing was seen as unshakeable. Robert Bennett, who had represented Utah in the Senate since 1993, was a pillar of the conservative establishment with decades of experience—as well as someone known to be willing and capable of debating and engaging with unlike-minded colleagues and the press. To beat him in the primary, Lee tacked to the right, riding a wave of Tea Party momentum to unseat Bennett and irking establishment Republicans and Bennett supporters in the process.

But whereas Cruz, who was elected to the Senate in 2012, all too quickly became seen as a Tea Party demagogue, Lee still stands the chance to emerge as the Boy Scout, who in addition to starting fires from scratch must also know how to put them out. (Lee is, literally, an Eagle Scout.) Not that this guarantees anything. Mitt Romney was a gentleman as well, and as the new documentary Mitt shows, he actually had the same mild-mannered persona at the podium as he was when the news crews weren’t following him. Ironically, Romney’s “messaging” failures led to a GOP postmortem that put an emphasis on style over substance, criticizing his staid manner for failing to incite conservative passion.

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