An Epic End to the Primaries: What It Means

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Republicans -- would you like some decaf with that Tea?


Amid the celebrations and recriminations, here are a few different ways to look at the primaries of September 14, 2010:

1. The Republican base has repeatedly, when given the opportunity, declared its divorce from the party leaders in Washington. This is a significant problem for Messieurs Boehner and Cantor and McConnell, who, with every step, seem to be generating more and more ire. (Or, they're doing nothing, and ire continues to be generated from the group psychodynamics of the Tea Party movement.) The O'Donnell victory will change how Republicans in Washington respond to Democratic overtures between now and election, and it will almost certainly change the way that Republicans set their agenda if they win the House back.

2. Leadership elections! As Michael Steele once said, "Can you smell it?" Speaking of Steele -- no Republican establishment candidate is going to have an easy time becoming the next RNC chairman.

3. I understand why some Republicans are trying to point out that Democrats are "crazy" too by noting how they re-nominated Rep. Charles Rangel in NY 15 and kicked out reformist mayor Adrian Fenty in Washington. That dog won't hunt. Yes, Democratic primary voters are showing streaks of independence, but these two votes had nothing to do with the party itself. Anyone following the Gray-Fenty race and who took a gander at the Rangel-Clayton Powell race aren't surprised.

4. The biggest casualty of the night, from the standpoint of Democrats, may be well Michelle Rhee's teacher accountability reforms in Washington. They need a few more years to marinate, but new DC mayor Vincent Gray has opposed them. Rhee might be looking for a new job. To the extent that DC politics can effect the national education debate, the White House wishes that Fenty had overcome his arrogance/charisma gap and won.

5. Chuck Todd said it first, but it's worth repeating: the GOP primary race for 2012 has shifted to the right. Newt Gingrich, who, way back when, opposed nominating Doug Hoffman in New York's 23rd congressional district because it wasn't prudent, unleashed a series of Tweets this morning that could have been written by Hoffman himself, responding to the torrent of complaints by Republicans in Washington.

"There will be an all out effort to discredit christine odonnell in delaware just as there was to discredit sharon angle in nevada," he wrote. Yes. "The elite media wants to declare her unelectable." No. Republicans IN Delaware, a lot of them, and a lot of smart insurgent GOPers, believe she's unelectable. But that's besides the point. Gingrich is making a play for these voters in 2012. He's shifting with the winds.

6. Expect an uptick in Democratic enthusiasm and expect several significant races to tighten. People tend to make judgments through the lens of the last major event. If Democrats interpret last night to mean that radical Republicans are threatening to take control, they're going to be more receptive to the basic party message.

7. The media is going to help the Democratic Party's national messaging, which is that the GOP is a party full of Christine O'Donnells, a party that wants to take away your Social Security and your right to masturbate. Well, maybe not that last part, but then again, the implicit message of the party is that the GOP is about to elect a slate of hard social rightists to Congress. 
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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