How the tea party blew it

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. In Colorado on Tuesday night, another right-winger, former Representative Tom Tancredo, lost the gubernatorial nomination to former Representative Bob Beauprez, giving the establishment its preferred candidate to take on incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper.

If there’s any segment of the GOP that ought to have egg on its face, it’s national Tea Party groups and figureheads. Dave Brat, the obscure college professor who took out Cantor, won largely without the help of these groups. Meanwhile, when they were the most heavily involved, in races that should have been favorable to them, they couldn’t close the deal. The organizations claiming to speak for the Tea Party nationally do not appear to be plugged into the real grassroots or have the ability to mobilize effectively in support of the candidates they favor.