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In the battle for control of the Republican Party, the Imperial establishment scored a couple blows against the rebel Tea Partiers Tuesday. Roy Blunt triumphed over Ron Johnson to become the fifth-ranking guy in the Senate Republican leadership, "a race that had become a proxy battle between the Republican Party’s tea-party and establishment wings," The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez writes. Both were elected in 2010, but Blunt had spent years as Republican whip in the House  -- plus he married a lobbyist -- while Johnson had never held public office. The Tea Party group Freedomworks demanded Johnson's selection, and so did RedState's Erick Erickson, Sonmez writes. But to no avail. Worse, that wasn't the only victory for the establishment Tuesday. 

Donald Trump cancelled the debate he was to moderate December 27, after Republican officials and conservative commentators condemned the event as a stunt. Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus said it would have been political "malpractice" not to oppose it, even though Trump got a lot of support from more conservative voters and parlayed his birther campaign into a commentating gig at Fox News. 

And this week, the Republican establishment waged an all-our campaign to stop Newt Gingrich from being the party's presidential nominee. Gingrich has been polling well among Tea Partiers getting 47 percent of their support in one poll, 41 percent in another (though that support could be slipping). The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza tallies some of the toughest anti-Gingrich comments from conservatives: Joe Scarborough called Gingrich "a bad person" whose nomination would leave the party "ruined"; Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said Gingrich had a "disturbing tendency: the passionate embrace of shallow ideas"; and George Will said Gingrich "embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive." Glenn Beck went further on Monday, saying he'd vote for a third party if Gingrich is nominated -- and since there's no difference between Gingrich and Obama, Tea Partiers who vote for Gingrich must be racist. On Tuesday, Scarborough, too, threatened to vote for an independent candidate if Gingrich is nominated, The Hill points out. But perhaps Charles Krauthammer dropped the biggest dirty word of all: socialist. Noting that Gingrich said Mitt Romney should give back the money he made firing people as he reorganized companies for Bain Capital, Krauthammer fumed:

"What kind of attack is this of one so-called person of the right to another? What kind of conception of capitalism do you have if you are attacking your opponent for entering what is the risk-taking of capitalism? ... This kind of attack is what you'd expect from a socialist? ... I think that is quite remarkable and telling, and it makes you wonder about the core ideology of Newt himself."

Having watched as Tea Party-backed candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell blow easy elections in 2010, the establishment is not going to let that happen again, and on a presidential scale. The empire strikes back.

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