The NRSC’s only function is to win elections. I get that. But NRSC chairman Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was forced to eventually pledge not to intervene in a contested primary in which there is no incumbent. Anger about this tin-eared approach was precisely what led grassroots activists to root for Christine O’Donnell reflexively, regardless of her electability.

The message coming from Tea Party activists wasn’t “All or nothing,” the message was, “Quit it!” (Kicking out a much-disliked liberal moderate like incumbent Mike Castle didn’t hurt, either.) Senate Republicans don’t like knowing that they don’t get a pass just for being a Republican. Unlike the 1994 revolution, there is now an organized grassroots base with an eye peeled. Antagonizing the base (which is different than simply abandoning it) will have more impact than ever before.