There was certainly activity geared toward the GOP primary. But the Rand Paul rallies I attended in mid-sized cities like Paducah and Bowling Green drew crowds of only 100 or so, and they were far more subdued than the angry Tea Party masses portrayed on cable television. Grayson’s crowds were even smaller. What was most notable about a race that was captivating the national media was how little it seemed to penetrate the consciousness of most Kentuckians. It was a big deal to a small group of energized Republicans. But more Democrats voted (about 500,000) than Republicans (about 350,000)…

Paul’s win is significant, and a high-water mark for the Tea Party. Unlike Doug Hoffman, who embraced the label in an upstate New York House election last November and lost, or Scott Brown, who won a Senate seat with help from Tea Party activists and then turned his back on them, Rand Paul embraced the Tea Party and won — and he’s not going to abandon it. Paul has established that the Tea Party can be a disruptive force. In Kentucky, as elsewhere, the Republican establishment is having fits. But whether Paul or any other candidate can carry a general election remains an open question. Until that happens, the notion that Paul’s victory portends a Tea Party wave is still cable news hype.