The Merger Of Tea Party And Establishment

Last night, Ben Sasse handily won the Republican Senate primary in Nebraska. Molly Ball analyzes the outcome, which is being hailed as a Tea Party victory:

Sasse actually represents less the Tea Party’s anti-incumbent rage than the sort of fusion candidate who can unite the party establishment and base—a well-credentialed insider who can convince the right wing he’s on their side. As Dave Weigel put it in Slate, “Sasse is a veteran of the establishment who masterfully ingratiated himself with the conservative movement.” Particularly in red states, he could represent the harmonizing future of the GOP in a post-GOP-civil-war world. Last week, Thom Tillis won the North Carolina Republican primary more by straddling the establishment and Tea Party than by taking sides; Sasse did so even more effectively.

Kilgore also reflects on last night’s elections:

All in all, last night definitely represented a hiccup for the “Year of the Republican Establishment” narrative.

I’m guessing the Powers That Be in the GOP and the mainstream media will emulate [Jennifer] Rubin by dismissing the results and focusing their attention on next week’s primaries, when the establishment is expected to do better in Idaho (Rep. Mike Simpson appears likely to hold off a right-wing challenger), Kentucky (Mitch McConnell has bludgeoned Matt Bevin into submission), and perhaps Georgia (“outsider” businessman David Perdue and career appropriator Rep. Jack Kingston are leading most polls and could be headed to a runoff).

At some point the pro-establishment narrative is going to have to come to grips with the fact that in almost every case the establishment champion has had to run hard right to survive, making victories when they happen mostly symbolic. But after Tuesday, just winning would be helpful.

Matt Lewis expects “Ben Sasse to be a very serious conservative Senator — not a ‘bomb thrower’ or a red-meat hurler”:

So I couldn’t be happier with the results. But I do think there is something else that deserves mentioning. There seems to be a sort of phony game that smart conservative candidates  – those who are willing to do what it takes to win a Republican primary — must at least tacitly agree to play (or permit to be played on their behalf): They have to talk like tea party populists, even if they walk like cosmopolitan conservatives.

Weigel looks at the big picture:

The Tea Party, easy as it is to mock and blame for defeats, has managed to install half a dozen senators who are young enough to run the upper house some day. Cruz, Sasse, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee won when they were in their 40s. Oklahoma’s T.W. Shannon and Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel, two Tea Party favorites for this year, are even younger. When given a shot at a safe seat, the movement elevates young, dynamic, ideological candidates.