2014 is shaping up as the year the Republican establishment is finding its footing. Of the 12 Republican senators on the ballot, six face primary competition, but only one looks seriously threatened: Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi. More significantly, only two House Republicans are facing credible competition from tea-party conservatives: Simpson and Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania—fewer than the number of conservative House Republicans facing competition from the establishment wing (Reps. Justin Amash, Walter Jones, and Kerry Bentivolio). With filing deadlines already passed in 23 states, it’s hard to see that dynamic changing.
Even the Club for Growth, one of the first outside groups to target Republican members of Congress, has been notably disciplined this year. Last February, the Club encouraged candidates to run against 10 squishy House Republicans, launching a PrimaryMyCongressman.com site featuring the so-called RINOs. Only one qualified challenger emerged. Their PAC is targeting just one Republican senator (Cochran, facing state Sen. Chris McDaniel) and one Republican congressman (Simpson). Meanwhile, they’ve joined forces with the party establishment in backing Senate candidates Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. The endorsement of Sullivan is significant, since they backed Joe Miller’s losing general-election campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010. Miller’s running again, but this time they’re opposing him in the primary.