by Dave Weigel
Rick Barber -- the man who cut three of the most dizzingly amusing YouTube ads of the cycle -- will not be heading to Congress. He badly lost last night's runoff in his Alabama district, falling by 22 points to Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, who pitted the support of the Republican establishment against Barber's aggressive courting of tea parties.
There is a lesson here, as well as an excuse to post Barber's best video. It's easy to look at a loss like this and conclude that the hype for tea party candidates like Barber or like failed Agriculture Commissioner Dale Peterson -- both of whom ran ads directed by the wily Ladd Ehlinger, Jr. -- outpaces their support from voters. That's not wrong -- Barber, not Roby, was the subject of cable news profiles, and Peterson will be the only Alabama AC candidate profiled by the Washington Post. But in a normal year, could Barber have forced a runoff or gotten to even 39% of the vote? More likely, he would have been the latest "fringe" candidate to see his exposure limited to some helpful paragraphs in a newspaper voter guide and be trampled into single digits.
But the tea party's success in boosting some serious candidates, like Scott Brown, has got the nonpartisan and liberal media chasing after any candidate who ostentatiously proclaims himself a tea partier. The "wackier" his appeal, the better. The easier it is to "nail" him on his views in an interview, the better. It's a bit like when a new craze hits (let's say alt rock) and all of a sudden every going-nowhere band can get a record deal (let's say The Verve Pipe, Days of the New, Marcy Playground) simply for acting up.