What if the tea party decides to walk away from the GOP in 2016?

On the Senate side, a similar trajectory has emerged. After largely humoring tea party groups between 2010 and 2012, the establishment has begun to fight back. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who himself is facing a tea party primary in Kentucky on May 20, has led the offensive, telling the New York Times last month: “I think we are going to crush [the tea party-aligned outside groups] everywhere. I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

Given that, it’s not unreasonable to think that a similar out-in-the-open political brawl is coming for the big prize: The 2016 presidential nomination. The lines are already drawn — albeit somewhat crudely — with Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on the tea party side and people like Govs. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Chris Christie as well as Sen. Marco Rubio representing the establishment side.

Now, someone will win that fight — that’s the good thing about campaigns, someone always wins. But, the broader issue raised by Galen is whether the loser — assuming it is the tea party wing — will simply fold itself into the Republican party or go its own way.