COMMENTARY | Last week, the tea party was considered dead and buried thanks to the victory of the so-called establishment candidate for the United States Senate in North Carolina. Ben Sasse’s win in Nebraska proves that pronouncement was premature.
“Sasse’s win was a boon to the parade of conservative groups and figures who rallied to his side. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) campaigned for Sasse alongside former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. The anti-tax Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund each spent at least hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Sasse, the president of Midland University.”
Sasse is heavily favored to win the general election in red state, conservative Nebraska. He would thus join a senate tea party caucus that already includes Cruz, Lee, and others such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
A number of contested primaries still remain, but the electoral landscape appears to be shaking up in which Republicans in various states are picking candidates for the fall midterms based on their merits and not necessarily on whatever label has been placed on them. In many cases, there is not a whole lot of daylight between the so-called establishment and the tea party on the issues. This is because a lot of Republican candidates, though backed by the establishment of the party, are shrewdly moving to the right to appeal to tea party voters. This means that even if tea party candidates lose most of the contested primaries, they have actually won by forcing the winners to at least campaign on tea party positions.
All of this means that the next Congress, including what many presume will be a Republican run Senate, will be more conservative than the last and will be prepared to make the final two years of the Obama presidency interesting indeed. The president will be faced with the grim prospect of either compromising or fighting a rear guard action to defend his legacy, neither of which is very appealing.